Prince and Sheila E

Purple Rain album cover - released in 1984

Purple Rain album cover – released in 1984

Around noon today I took some Tylenol sinus meds, grabbed a mug of hot tea and settled into my recliner with my pup, Lucy. I grabbed my laptop to check a few emails and wait for the meds to kick in when I saw the first post about Prince.  A friend had shared a story that Prince was dead at age 57.  The news was stunning and not quite believable.  Could it be an internet hoax?

With the way social media spreads – wildfire comes to mind – I decided to wait to see if Associated Press and other news sources confirmed the news. A number of times I’ve seen friends post RIPs for actors or celebrities who have already passed on thinking it was recent.  But soon there were more posts and finally confirmation with the report coming from Prince’s publicist.  It was true…Prince was gone.

Prince was my soundtrack in the 1980s with the release of his album “1999.” I mean, who didn’t want to party “like it’s 1999?” His album was released in 1982 so we had plenty of time to plan!  Then he released Purple Rain followed by his movie of the same name.  So much great music and still more to come in his incredible career.

Prince and Sheila E perform at The Alma awards in Pasadena, CA - June 2007 - AP Photo

Prince and Sheila E perform at The Alma awards in Pasadena, CA – June 2007 – AP Photo

I think what I loved the most about Prince is the many collaborations he made throughout his career. All the artist he worked with and who made a name for themselves because of his help.  One artist that is high on my list is Sheila E.

Sheila E is the daughter of Pete Escovedo, a Mexican-American musician percussionist who has performed with Santana. Sheila is from a family of musicians so I guess it isn’t surprising she chose this path too.  It seemed predestined for her in fact.  Her relationship with Prince began in 1978 when they met at a concert where she was performing with her father.  She and Prince began their collaboration during the Purple Rain years (1984) and her vocals can be heard on several of his releases like “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Erotic City.”  Her own first hit was “The Glamorous Life” which was a chart topper in 1984.  She opened for Prince during his Purple Rain tour and was with him through 1989 as his drummer and musical director.  Since this time, when I think of Sheila E, I always think of Prince and hoped to one day meet them both.

Sheila E. ends at the end of the concert she gave for the NCLR conference in Chicago - 2009.

Sheila E. ends at the end of the concert she gave for the NCLR conference in Chicago – 2009.

Fast forward to 2009 and I got my wish – part of it. .  In 2009, I attended the National Council of La Raza conference in Chicago.  NCLR is known for drawing great speakers and performers.  One evening is always devoted to music and this particular time the artist featured was Sheila E!  I was so excited as our group headed over to The House of Blues to hear her perform.  I was able to get very close to the stage with my camera and started clicking away.  Yes, I DID stop to get in a dance or two!  Sheila wore a red form-fitting dress, her black hair was long and wavy and she had a white floral percussion set.  I was mesmerized by her.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be so close to this incredible artist…someone who was guided by Prince and worked so closely with him.  It was such a thrill….and then this happened…

Photo opp with Sheila E in our hotel lobby in Chicago after her House of Blues performance.  What a treat!  My friend Isabel Rubio and I were thrilled to meet her!

Photo opp with Sheila E in our hotel lobby in Chicago after her House of Blues performance. What a treat! My friend Isabel Rubio and I were thrilled to meet her!

Back at our hotel, a group of us gathered at the bar in the lobby to enjoy a few drinks after the concert. We were a lively group – well, we ARE Latinos – and then suddenly Sheila E walked in!!!  Everyone got even louder and excited as she walked toward us and was sweet enough to pose for pictures!  I still had my camera with me (when don’t I have my camera with me?!) so I became the official photographer for our lucky encounter.  Thankfully, someone offered to take a few pictures of me with Sheila and my good friend Isabel Rubio.  What a night!  Unforgettable!

I’ve wanted to tell the story about meeting Sheila E for some time now. Today seemed like the right time to share it with Prince’s sudden passing.  We lost a musical giant today, but his influence lives on in the many people who love his music, the artists he mentored and the many who were fortunate enough to collaborate with him.

“There are no accidents. And if there are, it’s up to us to look at them as something else.  And that bravery is what creates new flowers.”  RIP Prince.

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