Prince and Sheila E., a cooled down friendship?

Prince & Sheila E. live 2008 (hollywoodreporter.com)

Prince & Sheila E. live 2008

(last edit date: 06/08/2024)

Sheila E. - The Glamorous Life (rockitpoole.com)

This article belongs to the story The Glamorous Life, the complete Sheila E. – Prince story.

Introduction

After Prince’s passing mud has been thrown regularly, often aimed at the Prince Estate about the way the (musical) inheritance was handled, and remarkably also at Sheila E. What’s the deal with that?

Sheila E. closes up shop

The last time Sheila E. played with Prince was on May 21, 2011. On May 30 she tweeted “I will not be performing with Prince anymore. I thank u 4 ur support”. Rumor has it that Sheila E. and her (family) band were planned to be the support act for the San Jose shows of May 19 and 21, 2011. Only after the entire band and equipment had arrived at the venue, they were told that the support act slot for both nights was passed on to Larry Graham. If that truly was the case, it’s no surprise Sheila E. was pissed.

It seems that feeling was less prevalent one and a half year later as Sheila E. was seemingly scheduled to play along at the September 24 to 26, 2012 shows that were organized under the moniker Welcome 2 Chicago. Something went wrong again, because the following tweet was posted on September 17, 2012:

Sheila E. - Twitter - 09/17/2012 (typepad.com)

Sheila E. – Twitter – 09/17/2012

Sheila E. followed the tweet with the words “Because Prince…”. After being asked what she meant, she replied “it’s all about truth and RESPECT”.

Coincidence or not, a week later a rehearsal version of Old Friends 4 Sale, a song Prince had never played live before, was made available through the site of Dr. Funkenberry:

24 SEP EXCLUSIVE! REHEARSAL JAM! PRINCE & THE NPG “OLD FRIENDS 4 SALE” LISTEN NOW!!!

Posted at 00:02h

Dr Funkenberry blog - Old Friends 4 Sale rehearsal - 09/24/2012 (drfunkenberry.com)

Wow. While rehearsing for his “Welcome 2 Chicago” tour dates, Prince & The NPG along with his 11 piece horn section, Prince sent in this beautiful and powerful rendition of “Old Friends 4 Sale” that is stunning to the ears.

To my knowledge, this song has never been performed live. Some of you may know the history of the song, being recorded in the 80’s, and before an official version was released in the late 90’s, the lyrics were changed. The story goes that the lyrics were too personal, so they were changed. There is a lyric change here as well.

If this is the kind of songs and instrumentation that Chicago can look forward to, these shows are going to be amazing.

I would like to thank PRINCE & The NPG for allowing us to share this with you exclusively. Absolutely beautiful. Very nice.

© 2012 Dr Funkenberry

At the live concert of September 24, 2012, the song made its debut (over 27 years after its initial studio recording). The song immediately followed a rendition of Sheila E.’s first big hit The Glamorous LifeOld Friends 4 Sale addresses colleagues/friends Prince felt had deceived/betrayed him. The rehearsal version changed the song’s perspective from male to female. All in all, the number of coincidences were too many to not call it intentional. The friends of yore were not on speaking terms anymore.

The reason was never (publicly) clarified during Prince’s lifetime. Apparently, Sheila was officially banned from Paisley Park Studios and visiting any show after Sheila’s autobiography Beat Of My Own Drum was published in 2014. In it, she claims to have been engaged to Prince and that he actually proposed to her on stage, while performing Purple Rain at a Lovesexy show.

Sheila E. - Prince memorial service Paisley Park - 04/24/2016 (abc11.com)

Sheila E. – Prince memorial service Paisley Park – 04/24/2016

After Prince’s passing

Even though Sheila E. and Prince hadn’t seen or spoken each other since 2012, Sheila E. was emphatically present during the first days after his untimely demise. She was frequently seen at and around Paisley Park Studios and asserted herself as some kind of spokeswoman for Prince (and family). Her “grieving widow” role wasn’t viewed in a particular positive light by all. NPG saxophone player Crutchfield: “After Prince died, it seems like everything she does is focused around Prince or his legacy – and it’s strange, because we never saw her at Paisley Park.”

Four years after his death Sheila E. released her second ‘tribute’ to Prince, a single named Lemon Cake. It was much better than her first effort, but this time a number of people were done with Sheila. The trigger was an interview in which Sheila stated that the song Lemon Cake tells the tale of her recipe. The interview was published on April 16, 2020, on the Billboard website:

One day I mentioned to him that I make a good chocolate and lemon cake. His response was, “Oh, I didn’t know you cooked.” I said, “Of course I do. My mom being Creole and my dad Mexican, I better know how to cook.” The next day I baked a lemon cake. It was love at first sight and one of his favorite things that we would share in the studio.

Sheila E. interview, Billboard, 04/16/2020

The quote on the cake rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Of course the issues wasn’t as trivial as a cake, but it did serve as the final straw. Sheila E. was accused of appropriating Prince, his legacy and musical tributes, like the upcoming Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince (broadcast on April 21, 2020). Sheila E. was all about directing all attention to herself, and played an active part in sabotaging the participation of The Time and, more particularly, The Revolution…

Appolonia Kotero, leading lady of the Purple Rain movie, publicly took the lead by publishing the following post on her Facebook page:

Apollonia Kotero - Facebook - 04/17/2020 (facebook.com)

Apollonia Kotero – Facebook – 04/17/2020

At first it all seemed a bit over the top, but following public support for Apollonia from several former employees and artists, like stage and lighting designer Leroy Bennett, former Vanity 6 singer Brenda Bennett, singer Jill Jones, singer and former fiancée Susannah Melvoin and photographer Mathieu Bitton, it was somewhat hard to discard Apollonia’s claims as one-way slander. Later dancer Cat also backup up the entire story. See the reactions of Apollonia’s post below:

Apollonia Kotero - Facebook reactions - 04/17/2020 (facebook.com)

Apollonia Kotero – Facebook reactions – 04/17/2020

On April 20 Apollonia published another post on her Facebook page:

Apollonia Kotero - Facebook - 04/20/2020 (facebook.com)

Apollonia Kotero – Facebook – 04/20/2020

Sheila E. seemingly remained unmoved by all criticism and reported that she was visited by a ‘dove’ on his day of death, April 21:

April 21, and here’s a dove right here… just came to see me. Sometimes it snows in April… Sometimes a Mourning Dove comes to visit on April 21st.

Two/three weeks later Howard Bloom, Prince’s former publicist, weighed in as well:

Sheila E. was obsessed with Prince and with having his children. She wanted to own Prince. But it was the 1980s and Prince had women. Sheila would call me crying, I would try explaining to her that there is no way she can get Prince to fall in love with her and worship every cell in her body the way she worships every cell in his. He was a satyr.

Howard Bloom, New York Post, 05/09/2020

Let's Go Crazy - The Grammy Salute To Prince (meaww.com)

Let’s Go Crazy – The Grammy Salute To Prince

Aftertaste

All very nice and all, but what’s the actual truth here? Of course, the people involved know that answer, but the accusations to Sheila E. weren’t mild. The accusation she withheld/stole money was particularly damaging. The remark that the Sheila E. autobiography Beat Of My Own Drum contained many lies and half-truths didn’t fare well on Sheila E.’s image. To be abundantly clear: up to this day not a single bit of evidence for those accusations has been produced.

Update 06/07/2024

On June 7, 2024, the day Prince should have turned 66 years old, Sheila E. posted a video on Instagram (click here), filming herself outside of Paisley Park Studios. Next to advertising her show with The Time the next day, Sheila complained about the way she was treated at the studio:

… I went in to celebrate him and I wanted to go into a studio and do a live video, take a picture and they said ‘no’. My heart broke. I can’t even walk into Paisley, that’s kinda messed up. I mean, I walked in, that’s not the point. I can’t go to the studio where I recorded. … All those records and songs and everything I did with him and they’re saying ‘no’ to me? Not a nice way to celebrate his birthday … So, happy birthday Prince, love you…

Within two hours officialpaisleypark reacted with a fairly logical explanation:

Sheila E. - Instagram reaction - 06/08/2024 (instagram.com)

Sheila E. – Instagram reaction – 06/08/2024

Conclusion

All the entanglements mentioned above do nothing for Prince, both the guilty and debtors make a bad impression. While it’s true that Sheila E. hadn’t been in contact with Prince for years, the overall image that prevails is that former proteges and employees childishly fight among each other trying to downplay the others’ importance to Prince. The accusation that Sheila E. must cease to use Purple Rain as her vehicle is rather self-serving. Many of the commenters seem to do that very same thing.

The fact of the matter is that Sheila E. has a good track record in Prince’s musical career. She played on 9 Prince singles, 12 Prince albums, multiple satellite act releases and was granted the biggest amount of songs of all satellite acts. She is inextricably connected to Prince.

Maybe the truth will come to light one day…

2 comments

    • Anja Lüders on 06/11/2024 at 5:23 PM
    • Reply

    Sheila wanted him badly and had a kind of break down because she could not have him exclusivly in the 80’s. She even mentions this indirectly in her book. Her back shot down. Who can blame her he was a unicorn as a musician and she could appreciate that as a musician.
    Now that he is dead she can fully claim him, she feels.

    1. Thank you for your reply. Your opinion is what I read regularly on social media as well.

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!