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Monday, August 03, 2009

Prince Protege Month - Sheila E.

The post title says it all, doesn't it? Will your favorite purple protege be featured? Stick around all week and see.

Kicking things off is Miss Escovedo, who Prince discovered in 1983 playing in her father's latin-fusion band Azteca. The tiny terror promptly put Sheila to work, having her provide the guest vocals on his classic b-side "Erotic City" (not Vanity nor Apollonia, as is commonly mistaken). A short year later, Sheila had a contract with Warner Brothers and a Top Ten hit with her debut album's title track, "The Glamorous Life".

As catchy as "The Glamorous Life" was, I, naturally, was all about the follow-up, the New Wave-ish, synth-based "The Belle of St. Mark". The squiggly synth hook and balloon-popping snare accent were keepers, but the lyrics and even title of the song begged question. The Belle of St. Mark is a frail but passionate creature, and is referred to as "he" throughout. Then why the feminine "Belle"? And these classic lines never fail to crack me up:

His Paris hair, it blows in the warm Parisian air
That blows whenever his Paris hair is there

That's just gold, people. I suppose we could blame Prince, but Sheila E. has sole writing credit on that one, so...

Prince did, however, share writing credit on the first single from Sheila's follow-up LP, Romance 1600. "Sister Fate" is quite reminiscent of "The Glamorous Life", just enough to be a hit, but different enough to still be enjoyable. Alas, it was not meant to be, as "Sister Fate" died immediately upon release, putting a pall over Romance 1600 right out of the gate. What turned off Top 40 radio to this tune? Was it the ahead of its time latin percussion or perhaps it was the haughty, faux-Brit spoken word section where Sheila intones:

There's a nasty ruMAH
That's going-guh rrrrrround...

...before ending it in a bizarre, out-of-left-field cartoon voice. What's that all about?

Speaking of bizarre, the album was saved by its second single, "A Love Bizarre", which was mostly a Prince featuring Sheila E. recording. Being prominently featured in the movie Krush Groove didn't hurt its chances, either. And no Sheila E. post would be complete without including the incredibly awesome and cringe-tastic "Holly Rock", made famous by Sheila in Krush Groove:

"The Belle of St. Mark" peaked at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #68 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles Charts in 1984.
"Sister Fate" peaked at #102 on the Billboard Bubbling Under, #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles and at #26 on the Hot Dance/Maxi-Singles Sales Charts in 1985.

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Sheila E

NEXT: Vanity 6 whore it up and cause your monitor to require penicillin.

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posted by John, 6:47 PM