Taken from Fairfax County Time (June 22, 2018)
Sheila E. continues to be a force in the music world
by Keith Loria/ Special to the Fairfax County Time
Sheila E. is still living the glamorous life. PHOTO BY ROB SHANAHAN
In 1984, Prince began collaborating with an up-and-coming percussionist and singer going by the name Sheila E., and their pairing on "Erotic City" (the B-side to the megahit "Let's Go Crazy"), helped launch her to more than three decades of success in the music biz.
Her first solo record, "The Glamorous Life," spawned top singles in its title track and "A Love Bizarre," and she's continued to be a force to be reckoned with as a percussionist, singer, songwriter and musical influence.
"When we write music and are able to share that, most of the time it is based on personal experience of where we are and what we feel at the time, and I certainly don't feel the same as I did 40 years ago," she said. "To me, it's important to get new music out and show how I have grown."
Over the years, she has worked with BeyoncÃ©, Ringo Starr, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke.
On June 24, Sheila E. will join Charlie Wilson (former lead singer of The Gap Band) as co-headliners for a concert at Wolf Trap.
"It's going to be a blast and people should be bringing their dancing shoes," Sheila E. said. "We're going to have a great time playing old songs, new songs, and it's just going to be amazing."
Performing live is still her favorite part of the business and she appreciates her fans who continue to support her and come out.
"I truly appreciate it, and am very thankful and blessed to be able to still be relevant in this crazy industry," Sheila E. said. "It's overwhelming the amount of love we get and that gets us still going and enjoying it more and more."
Last fall, she released a new album, "Iconic: Message 4 America," which brought her back to the Billboard charts for the first time since 1991.
She describes the album as "a reflection of our social history in collaboration with musical voices that have identified current culture" and feels it's one of her most important ever.
"So many people here at home and around the world are shocked and afraid, on a daily basis, of what is happening in America," Sheila E. said. "We have lost our way. Our country and the very fabric and ideas of American values have been conned from us by a constant barrage of lies, half-truths, self-interest, and apathy. We, as a people, have to do something."
Among the guests on the record are Ringo Starr, George Clinton, Israel Houghton, Freddie Stone, The E. Family, Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta, Bootsy Collins and Candy Dulfer.
"We made this record thanks to a PledgeMusic campaign, and that was really awesome because I had such an incredible time engaging with fans the way we did, and giving them a part of this story," Sheila E. said. "They helped us get this record made. It's not ours; we are just the vehicle and it's the people's record."
She's already thinking about her next project and has four different ideas that she's considering, with one about 75 percent completed and another half done. Because of the success of her first PledgeMusic campaign, she's almost certain she will try that again.
Outside of singing, Sheila E. has also stayed busy on percussion, lending her skills for the orchestral soundtracks of superhero films "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
"I also love playing with other artists and I'm working with Christian McBride at some jazz camps, helping kids and performing with them, which is great," she said. "And I just did eight songs on Gary Clark, Jr.'s new record, so I'm staying busy recording and working with some great people."
Sheila E. also is part of the foundation, Elevate Oakland, bringing music and arts to schools in the Bay Area and that's a cause that is close to her heart as she tries to bring music programs to public schools that lost their budget for the arts.