Wave Wire Services
HOLLYWOOD — Sheila E. made history on the Hollywood Walk of Fame July 12, becoming the first female solo percussionist honored on the fabled walk.
“I am honored, humbled, and blessed to receive this prestigious award,” the musician born Sheila Escovedo told City News Service ahead of the ceremony. “This is a forever moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Ringo Starr was among those attending the ceremony in front of the Musicians Institute at 6752 Hollywood Blvd. that was emceed by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and star recipient Jimmy Jam. Jimmy Jam, his songwriting and producing partner Terry Lewis, and Sheila E. received Emmy nominations for outstanding music direction in 2020 as music directors of “Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute To Prince.”
“I’m proud to call Sheila E. a friend and to be here to say a few words about this incredible woman,” Starr said. “Sheila E is also a force of nature.”
Starr said that during one of his All-Starr Band tours, Sheila E. injured her ankle prior to a show and had to be taken to a hospital. Although he assumed she would not be performing that night, she returned to the venue in a wheelchair and with crutches.
“She got on that [stage] and played like the mad woman she is,” he said.
He said he later saw her before she walked off the stage putting high heels on, insisting she wasn’t going to walk on stage without them.
Grammy and Oscar-winning R&B singer H.E.R. also paid tribute during the ceremony, saying she would listen to Sheila E. when she was a kid. She said when she was 13, she saw Sheila E. perform with Prince.
“And that was the moment that changed my life forever, because in that moment I knew, like, I could do it,” she said. “I’m looking at this amazing woman, musician, multi-instrumentalist on stage with another musician that I love, and I was so inspired.”
Speaking to the crowd, Sheila E. said her parents put her on stage at an early age.
“I was so blessed to be able to learn from my parents what it is to recognize your talent and your passion, when you know what that is and your purpose, it hits different. … I’m so grateful for this. I’m honored and humbled.”
At the end of the ceremony, she performed a song on drums with her father, Pete Escovedo, who received a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 along with his daughter.
Born Dec. 12, 1957, in Oakland, Sheila E. gave her first public performance when she was 5 years old, appearing alongside her father in front of a crowd of 3,000, in a performance she told CNS “changed my life.”
“I did not realize this was something that I wanted to do,” she said. “At the end of that performance, I knew then, and only then this was my purpose.”
Her early musical influences included her uncle Coke Escovedo, a percussionist with the rock band Santana and Latin rock band Azteca; another uncle, Mario Escovedo, was the front man for the rock band The Dragons, the rock bands Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, the R&B/pop group the Pointer Sisters and the funk band Sly & the Family Stone.
“I used to sit on the corner outside of the local community center with Twinkies and 7-Up listening to Sly and Larry Graham rehearse,” she said. “The sounds of the Bay Area molded me.”
Sheila E. made her recording debut with jazz bassist Alphonso Johnson on “Yesterday’s Dream” in 1976. By her early 20s, she had already played with George Duke, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock and Diana Ross. In 1977, she and her father released the album “Solo Two.” That same year, she joined the George Duke Band.
Following a Bay Area gig in the late 1970s, Sheila E. met Prince backstage, which led to their “Purple Rain” recording sessions, including her vocals on the 1984 classic “Erotic City.”
Sheila E. also released her first album in 1984, “The Glamorous Life,” which reached seventh on the Billboard R&B charts and was certified as a gold album by the recording industry trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America.
The title cut from the album reached No. 1 on the dance club songs chart.
Sheila E. received all four of her Grammy nominations in 1985, including for best new artist, losing to Cyndi Lauper. Her other nominations were for best pop vocal performance, female, and best rhythm & blues song, both for “The Glamorous Life” single, and best R&B instrumental performance for “Shortberry Strawcake,” the second track on “The Glamorous Life” album.
Sheila E. released her second album, “Romance 1600,” in 1985, which was also certified gold, a feat none of her subsequent six albums accomplished.
Sheila E. has also performed at the opening ceremony for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the Oscars and the Kennedy Center Honors. She received her first Emmy nomination in 2010 for outstanding music direction as music director of “In Performance at the White House: Fiesta Latina.”
“I always wanted to be the first girl astronaut on the moon and to win a gold medal in the Olympics,” Sheila E. told City News Service. “I did not become an astronaut, but I’ve always reached for the stars and I chose music as my profession.
“Performing professionally, since the age of 15 years young, I have now received many gold and platinum albums. God made a made a way of getting gold and becoming a star instead.”