Sheila E.: 1957—: Percussionist, Singer, Composer, Producer
Divided By Race And Class
In junior high school, Sheila learned about class and racial prejudice. Her school system started busing students like her from disadvantaged neighborhoods to better schools in more upscale parts of town. She ended up going to school in ritzy Oakland Hills, where the resident students did not know what to make of kids from her side of town. Socially, the students split into groups decided by race and class—black or white, rich or poor. Though she was definitely poor, her mixed background made it difficult for her to truly fit in with one group.
Pete Escovedo absolutely discouraged his children from pursuing musical careers. When Sheila expressed an interest in following in his footsteps and playing percussion, he forced her to learn to play violin, instead. He saw that she had talent, but thought classical music would be more secure than popular music for his daughter. After serious campaigning by Sheila and her mother, though, her father finally relented, and even let her play percussion with his band. Her first appearance with Azteca was before an audience of 3,000 people. "When it actually happened I could not believe her intensity," Pete Escovedo is quoted as saying in Sheila E. "She had it in her eyes. When we looked at each other, it was like we had died and gone to heaven." He made her a part of Azteca, and Sheila quit high school to tour South America with the band.
At age 18, Sheila joined and toured with the George Duke Band and, in 1978, she first met a young artist known as Prince. The young percussionist gained a reputation in the music industry, and played and recorded with such artists as Al Jarreau, Diana Ross, Jeffrey Osborne, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Nicks, and Marvin Gaye, among others. While out on tour with Lionel Richie in 1983, she met with Prince again, who was working on his film, Purple Rain.
- Sheila E.: 1957—: Percussionist, Singer, Composer, Producer - Stepped Up To The Mike
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