Bay Area Women in African American Music: Sheila E. Returns to Oakland to Headline Art + Soul




When Sheila E. met First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House five and a half years ago, the percussionist said, “Hi, honey.” She hugged the First Lady but stepped back immediately, showing embarrassment at having made what she believed to have been a faux pas.

First Lady Obama “grabbed both of my arms very firmly and said, ‘I’m a normal person just like you. Call me Michelle,’” Sheila recalled.


The musician, born in Oakland and best known for her mid-‘80s hits “The Glamorous Life,” “A Love Bizarre” and “Hold Me,” was there as musical director of a concert on the south lawn, “In Performance at the White House: Fiesta Latino.”


The concert was one of the highlights of Sheila’s career, which started 41 years ago when she dropped out of Oakland High School in the 10th grade to join Azteca, a large Latin-jazz-rock fusion band led by her father and her uncle, the late Coke Escovedo.


With the President and First Lady serving as hosts, Sheila played timbales while leading a 15-member orchestra that backed an eclectic array of Hispanic American music stars, including her dad, percussionist Pete Escovedo, Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Jose Feliciano and Thalia.


The PBS television broadcast earned her an Emmy nomination for “Best Music Direction.”


The oldest of four children of a Mexican American father and a mother of New Orleans Creole heritage, Sheila has worked with such greats as George Duke, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, Ringo Starr and Prince.


Sheila, who has lived in Sherman Oaks for the past 15 years, will return to Oakland on Sunday, Aug. 2, to headline the 15th anniversary of the Art + Soul festival. She and her band will perform from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. on the main stage, located at the corner of 12th and Clay streets.


The Elevate Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Sheila and business partner Lynn Mabry, will also host a separate concert that afternoon at 12:30 p.m. on the Elevate Oakland stage at 14th and Clay streets. Performers include Kev Choice, Martin Luther, DJ D Sharp, Ashling “Biscuit” Cole, Ray Obiedo and the League, a group made up of four of Sheila’s nephews.


“We want to put music and arts in the schools,” Sheila said of the organization. “We’ve been doing some work at Castlemont and McClymonds.”


Additional information can be found at or call (510) 444-2489.


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