May 29, 2014
10:50 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Percussionist Shelia E. Coming to Ridgefield; Backed J. Lo on 'Idol'

 Percussionist Shelia E. Coming to Ridgefield; Backed J. Lo on 'Idol'

Early in her life Sheila Escovedo, a native of Oakland, California, better known to the music loving world as Sheila E, learned the importance of helping those less fortunate than herself.

“My dad, when he was growing up, was left in an orphanage and a foster care facility for many years,” recalls Escovedo. Her father, Pete Michael Escovedo, grew to be a skilled but financially struggling musician who never forgot his humble origins.

“Once we were old enough, he would take us to children’s facilities,” Escovedo says. “We’d put percussion in the car, in the station wagon or in the van, and we would go to facilities and play for the kids. Even as bad as we had it, didn’t matter, there were other people that were worse off than we were.”

Escovedo will perform at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Sunday, June 1, at 8 p.m. She released her new album “Icon” in March. Her memoir, “The Beat of My Own Drum,” will be published this September.

Escovedo learned how to play drums and percussion from watching her dad and ultimately shot to pop stardom in the 1980s after Prince handpicked her to perform with his band and asked her to provide backing vocals on the hit songs “Let’s Go Crazy,” and “Erotic City.”  She would go on to record or tour with artists such as Natalie Cole, Babyface, Gloria Estefan, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper, Ringo Starr and Diana Ross. She even backed Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez in their steamy 2011 performance on "American Idol." Along the way she’d earn the nickname Queen of Percussion and carve out a successful solo career, charting hit songs such as  “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre.”

(Below: Watch the music video for "Fiesta" from Shelia E.'s new album "Icon"

Despite her success, she never lost sight of the lesson her father taught her on the streets of Oakland. In 2001 she co-founded the Elevate Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed with the goal of providing abused and neglected children an alternative method of therapy through music and the arts. Members of the organization also work to help provide funding for arts programs at schools with limited resources.

Escovedo says she was inspired to start the organization after music helped her get through the trials and tribulations of her own life. Some of these trials, including being sexually molested when she was a child, are detailed in her memoir.

“My story is pretty interesting; there’s 300 pages worth of storytelling,” she says. “My life’s been an amazing journey so it just made sense to do the book.”

The memoir and the new album both grew out of the same soul searching creative process, says Escovedo.

“I started the memoir many years ago, and, as I think most of us do, I stopped, I started, I stopped again. But I decided to really do it and in the process realized that there were things I was talking about in the book that I could actually make into songs,” she says. “Once I started looking at some of the songs I had already written I realized I had half the record done, because I realized there were songs that I had already written that should also be on it.”

The new album has R&B and jazz fusion roots and includes singles “Mona Lisa” (above) as well as the infectiously danceable Latin/hip-hop party anthem “Fiesta.” She’ll be performing material from the album and selections from throughout her career when she takes the stage Sunday in Ridgefield.  

The Ridgefield Playhouse is at 80 East Ridge, Ridgefield. Tickets are $60. For more information visit

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Percussionist Shelia E. Coming to Ridgefield; Backed J. Lo on 'Idol'

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