Last night, the legendary Shelia E. brought her drums and soul to the B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. The drummer and songstress is best known for her work with Prince on songs like “Erotic City,” “A Love Bizarre” — from the hip hop classic Krush Groove — and the 1984 hit "The Glamorous Life." However, Shelia, daughter of iconic percussionist Pete Escovedo, has carved out a career beyond Prince, which was obvious from the packed house at B.B. King’s. At 54 years old, Shelia E. pounded the drums and percussion, taking the crowd on a ride of Latin rhythms, hardcore funk and vintage pop.
Directly after the show, BET.com sat down with Shelia E. for a one-on-one. Here, Shelia talks Krush Groove, the rumored origins of "The Glamorous Life," President Barack Obama and same-sex marriage.
How does it feel to be back in New York City — are New York audiences different or is it all the same love?
[Laughs] Yeah, love is love; it’s a good love though. New York is awesome, I love coming here. It’s very special. There's no place like New York, there really isn't. They love music.
The first time hip hop audiences fell in love with you was 1985’s Krush Groove. Can you give us a special moment from that film?
It was cool to meet Run-D.M.C, they were really hot back then, very popular. LL Cool J had just started. No one really knew who he was and even back then he was like, "I'm gonna be!" Now we are all friends, it’s just crazy. There were a lot of special moments in the movie, just to be a part of it. We didn’t know it was going to become what it is now or what it means to people.
Prince's Purple Rain Tour is one of the most famous tours of all time. Could you share something from that experience?
It was pretty amazing. We had a great time. “The Glamorous Life” had just come out. Having Prince, myself and some of the other players, we were young — like 26 or so. It was the time of our lives. We were on the biggest, hottest tour out there at the time. We did 98 shows. I was on tour two months in Europe before we even started Purple Rain. It was a lot of work though, but we had a great time.
I heard that "The Glamorous Life" was originally a song for Apollonia 6, but Prince gave it to you. Any truth to that?
No, I keep hearing that. I don't know who has said that or where they got that from. But no, that was actually the last song that was written for my record. I was having problems trying to figure out how to come up with something to talk about, it was an instrumental at first. I was kind of stuck with, “What we are going to do with it?” It was the last song to go on the record and we fought for it to be the first single.
It's an election year. Are you supporting President Barack Obama?
Oh, absolutely! [Laughs]
I didn't want to assume anything! [Laughs]
No, I know. [Laughs] Barack Obama — I believe in what he is doing and what he is trying do for our country, for the youth, for the kids, for healthcare, for women. The economy is messed up but it was a domino effect from what happened during the Bush administration, it just continued while Obama was in office. I think the Republicans wanted to make sure this was a one-term president. He's been fighting stay in office since he came in office. I would tell people, you should go out and really research, figure out what is best for you. I can't sit here and convince someone what they should or should not do. I just know that I would be afraid if Mitt Romney was president. Everyone kind of just believes the hype on some things and they don't do the research. It's our responsibility as Americans to do the research. Our voices need to be heard.
You have a loyal following in the gay community. What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?
Everybody was in an uproar about President Obama agreeing to that and at first he didn't, the thing is — being an American, this is a free country, freedom of speech, what we can say and do. That is why everybody wants to come here. They want to be here because they can do whatever they want. I can't sit here and judge anybody. I only have to take care of me and that's a lot! [Laughs] I got a lot of work to do on me. So I can't even comment because I can't judge anybody. That's judging someone; I can only talk about what I need to do for me. I just want to bless somebody. So if I put a smile on anybody's face, I've done my job.
In 2012, where do you see yourself musically?
Sky is the limit. I have no boundaries, no limits, no rules. I love what I do. There's so much music out there that I'll never be able to grasp onto. There are villages in South Africa, music in India — just continue to experiment with music and try different things. It's pretty awesome to be able to create music and have people like it like this.
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(Photo: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)