Sheila E. Finds Healing in Music and Her Faith

Sheila E. is moving to higher heights through her faith in God.
Sheila E. is moving to higher heights through her faith in God.

The healing power of God is still very real. Sheila Escovedo is a living witness to this testament. Better known to music fans worldwide as the wondrously beautiful Grammy and Emmy-nominated percussionist and composer Sheila E., the supremely talented Escovedo can vouch first-hand how the Higher Power saved her life in more ways than one.

For years, Escovedo lived in shame and embarrassment over the fact that she was raped by a neighbor who was babysitting her when she was a small child. Angered and bitterness manifested.  But somehow, someway, God provided a ram in the bush for Escovedo, who recorded the megahit album and single, “The Glamorous Life.”

Escovedo’s initial saving grace came in the form of growing up in a talented musical family, spearheaded by her father, Pete Escovedo, one of the premiere percussionists among Latin and smooth jazz artists. Playing music was her outlet. Picking up the sticks, beating the drums and diving all in to music provided Escovedo temporary relief from the constant anguish of being sexually violated.

That temporarily relief did not translate into real peace for the performer who have worked with many of the music industry’s greatest talents, including the late Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Jennifer Lopez, George Duke, Ringo Starr and Lionel Ritchie. All it did was mask a heavy burden and heavy heart that Escovedo walked around with.

On the outside, Escovedo beamed that megawatt smile, turned on that irresistible sensual charm that propped her up as a pop sex symbol with hits like “Love Bizarre” and “Hold Me.” Underneath, Escovedo was hurting. She wrestled with her own inner demons of humiliation and feeling disgraced. Finally, Escovedo’s Oakland, California-raised tough exterior broke.

She’d had enough. Something had to give. She wanted to forgive her tormentor but didn’t know how. It was when she had reached her invisible wall that Escovedo received what she needed from God.

“Forgiveness is a hard thing to do,” Escovedo said in a phone interview with News4usonline.com. “I couldn’t carry that anymore. I just asked the Lord to rebuild me, just to help me. Once I submitted, it was like the peeling of an onion. Every time I said, ‘I did not want to carry this stuff, I’m giving it to you Lord, and it was like peeling an onion.’ Every time I did that it was like carrying the baggage of guilt, the baggage of shame.

“Part of my testimony is being to share that with people and helped heal me. But God revealed to me, ‘All of these things that you’re carrying…I made you whole. You are whole again. And you don’t have to carry that shame. You’re complete. I created you complete. You’re special who you are.’ After that, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, I felt like a new person.’”

It was imperative for Escovedo to give herself to God, she said. A lot of hostility towards others had set in her spirit. She looked in the mirror and didn’t like who she had become as a person.

“I was carrying around a lot guilt and shame and was angry at people all the time because at an early age, I was raped by a babysitter,” Escovedo said. “I was angry. I was angry at people. I didn’t want to hold that grudge. I didn’t want to hold that shame or that guilt. I wanted to forgive the person that had done that and I needed to move on. That whole process came to a conclusion like a brick wall. I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I wanted to be better.’”

Sheila E. and The E Family will bring some noise at this year’s Playboy Jazz Festival.

Getting better has been a process for Escovedo.  After closing the door on one ugly chapter of her life, Escovedo, who co-founded the Elevate Hope Foundation with friend Lynn Mabry, an organization which reaches out and helps abused and abandoned children with therapy methods of music and involvement in the arts, found herself calling on God yet again. This time it was a matter of life and death.

The worldliness of being a famous celebrity had worn out its welcome. The material lifestyle of the rich and famous had grown old. Escovedo was missing something in her life. Health issues then became a major concern for Escovedo. Her back gave out on her. One of her lungs collapsed. Escovedo felt she was on death’s doorsteps after losing weight and shrinking under 100 pounds.

Weak and sick, Escovedo asked a relative to bring her the Bible one day. She made a confession to God. Her plea was that if He bailed her out of the situation she was in-she would never fail to acknowledge Him.

“My back gave out and my lung collapsed almost around the same time,” said Escovedo. “I didn’t think I was going to make it. The medicine they were giving me was really making me sick. I lost a lot of weight and I pretty much thought that I was going to die…I was at my house and my cousin was there. She brought me the Bible.

“I said, ‘I’m going to hold this to my head and I’m just going to keep this by my side and I’m going to sleep with it. I said, ‘Lord, I want to change my ways. I want to be a better person and I know if you get me out of this that I will talk about you for the rest of my life.’ That was part of the process, the beginning of the change.”

That change has been for the better in many ways for Escovedo. Her spiritual awakening has put Escovedo into another realm of success in the music and entertainment industry. Besides being a renowned drummer and percussionist, Escovedo has earned kudos as a top-notch producer, showcasing her musical arrangement skills for the Latin Grammy Awards and the 1996 Olympics among other endeavors.  Escovedo is also widely known as perhaps the most successful musician to come from the rich talent stable of pop icon Prince.

However, there is a lot more to Escovedo than tracing other people’s footsteps to greatness. She is her own person. She has her own vision. Part of that revelation is kindling a 14-song CD with her father and brothers, Juan and Peter Michael.  With the kind of musical linage running deep in her genes, Escovedo said the family thought it was the right time to come together and do a project. The end result is “Now & Forever,” by The E Family, a project that fuses Latin Jazz, R&B and Hip-Hop.

“It’s Escovedo-style music,” Escovedo said. “We’re from the Bay Area, born and raised. It’s got a little bit of everything. We always kind of call ourselves that big pot of Gumbo; you put every kind of spice you can in there. It does have a little bit of R&B. There’s a song we did with Josh Stone. We’ve got a little bit of Hip Hop. Some of the Neptunes, they’re even signing and rapping on it. They helped co-write some of the songs as well as pop (Pete Escovedo) putting in his tradition of Latin Jazz…It’s a little bit of everything, it really is. That’s just who we are as artists.”

Escovedo and the rest of The E Family will bring their flavor of music this weekend to the 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. What that means for the currently unattached Escovedo is another opportunity of giving God the glory on stage.

God has given me a gift,” Escovedo said. “Every time I get on stage it’s like my first time performing. I’m excited. It is like, ‘Man, can you believe that this is a gift that God has given me?’ We pray before we go on stage. We’re excited. We’re pumped up. We’re nervous. I’m still nervous about performing. It’s just that excitement that we get to do this. That energy comes from just loving so much what we get to do and being able to share it with people.”

 

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1166 Articles

Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.