One of life’s constants for Sheila E. comes down to a simple phrase: follow the beat. And her impeccable inner rhythm is the pulse behind a trailblazing career that still knows no bounds.
World-class drummer and percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Ringo Starr. Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke. Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter behind the seminal hits “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre.” Sheila is a fearless multi-instrumentalist, as well as an Actress, Mentor, and Philanthropist.
As the musical half of Sheila E.’s storied life and career, Icon pulsates from start to finish with colorful fusions of the pop, R&B, funk, rock, Latin and jazz influences that shaped her unique style. The 16-track set opens with the soaring “Butterfly,” the first of four interludes that subtly yet powerfully illuminate the versatile talent behind the music. “Butterfly" reflects part of the journey in my book,” explains Sheila E., nicknamed butterfly by a family friend. “It’s who I am as a person. I always wanted to fly, to be the first female astronaut on the moon. It’s me running track, running free. That’s how I play.”
Joining Sheila E. on her musical reverie are two singular storytellers in their own right: singer Ledisi and pioneering rapper MC Lyte. The latter’s signature edgy flow spices up the saucy themed “Nasty Thang,” while outlining the drama and glamour that often comes with a life in the music industry. Ledisi adds a poignant touch to “Girl Like Me,” an honest, empowering message about surviving abuse. An abuse survivor herself, Sheila E. originally penned the song to perform with her 2007 female band C.O.E.D. (Chronicles of Every Diva). Rounding out Icon is a new version of the funky tour de force “Leader of the Band.” The song features Sheila and the E Family (father Pete and brothers Juan and Peter Michael) as well as Prince, on piano.
“I love playing this song,” says Sheila E., “so I re-recorded, while still leaving a little room for Prince. It’s about how I was influenced by my pops [the legendary Pete Escovedo] and [songwriter/producer/musician] George Duke. That a female can be in charge and bring it just as hard.”
Icon ends as it begins with another moving interlude, “Now Is the Hour.” A duet featuring Sheila E. and her beloved “moms,” Escovedo matriarch Juanita, the clip dates back to Sheila E.’s childhood.
Sheila E.’s fierce, dynamic verve onstage has made her a major concert draw since the ‘90s. Along the way, she has acted in several films (“Krush Groove,” “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” “Chasing Papi”) and launched various music projects (E Train, The E Family). Adding to her arsenal of credits such names as Ringo Starr (as a member of Ringo Starr’s All Star Band in 2001, 2003 and 2006), Gloria Estefan and Beyoncé as well as performing on the 2012 Academy Awards with pop hitmaker Pharrell Williams and composer Hans Zimmer. She was the first female Music Director for a late night talk show (“The Magic Hour” with Magic Johnson) and received an Emmy® nomination as Musical Director for “Fiesta Latina – A Performance at The White House.” Sheila E. was recently among the roster of stars chosen to perform at the Kennedy Center Honors whose 2013 honorees included artists Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel and Carlos Santana.