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'He Loved People Whether He Showed It Or Not': Sheila E. Remembers Prince

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

People around the world are continuing to pay tribute to the musician Prince, who died yesterday. On social media, fans are posting their favorite videos. Radio stations are pulling out their Prince playlists. In Brooklyn, movie director Spike Lee threw a block party last night that drew about a thousand people singing along to Prince tunes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing).

MCEVERS: And in Prince's hometown of Minneapolis, a club he helped make famous, the First Avenue club, kicked off days of festive mourning. Musicians like Lizzo took the stage to sing Prince songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: This is the least I can do. (Singing) Baby, baby, baby.

MCEVERS: Among those remembering their favorite moments with Prince today is musician Sheila E. She first started recording with her dad, Pete Escovedo, but she rose to fame thanks to her close collaboration with Prince on songs like "Glamorous Life."

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "GLAMOROUS LIFE")

MCEVERS: I understand you are in Minneapolis now, and you flew there last night. What made you decide to do that?

SHEILA ESCOVEDO: When I first heard about the passing of Prince and got confirmation, I felt I needed to come back here and be here with him and with the family and figure out what needed to happen and be with family and friends. And I just knew that he would want me here.

MCEVERS: Can you tell me how the two of you met?

ESCOVEDO: 1978 in San Francisco. He was performing his show for his first record that he recorded.

MCEVERS: And how did that meeting happen?

ESCOVEDO: I went to go see him perform because I had heard about him because my dad was playing with Santana then, and they were recording in the same studio. And they had heard the music coming from the other room and was talking about how great it was. And there was this young kid in the room by himself playing everything, producing and writing the songs. I was like, I want to go, you know, check him out and...

MCEVERS: What'd you think when you first saw him?

ESCOVEDO: I couldn't tell which one he was 'cause he looked different from the posters, so I wasn't sure. He was dressed in a jacket with leg warmers on so...

MCEVERS: (Laughter) So wait; he had a jacket on top and leg warmers on the bottom.

ESCOVEDO: Yes.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

ESCOVEDO: And then I met him backstage. I went to introduce myself after the show 'cause I loved the music. It was great.

MCEVERS: And how was that conversation?

ESCOVEDO: It was great. We met instantly, you know? He said he'd been following my career for a long time. And he was a fan, and he loved it.

MCEVERS: As you said, you're a musician. You were a drummer before you met Prince. But I understand he was the one who convinced you to sing on a recording for the first time? Is that right?

ESCOVEDO: Kind of. I had sang with my dad on his record already when I was 16. I did my first record. But he talked to me later on 'cause I didn't like singing, like, lead. I didn't mind singing background. And he did convince me to sing - you need to sing a lead, you know, your own stuff.

MCEVERS: Later when you guys were on tour, I think it was for "Purple Rain," there's this story that he actually proposed to you while you were playing the drums?

ESCOVEDO: I don't know what city we were in.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

ESCOVEDO: But I was playing - we were playing "Purple Rain," and after his solo was when he asked.

MCEVERS: And he just walked up and said, will you marry me?

ESCOVEDO: No, we were playing, and he turned around and asked me.

MCEVERS: While you were playing. And what'd you do?

ESCOVEDO: I said yes.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Yeah? I mean, could you guys hear each other over the music, or were you, like, nodding and mouthing the words?

ESCOVEDO: Oh, no. It was a moment. It was our moment.

MCEVERS: I mean, a lot of things are being said about Prince in the media right now. What is not being said? What do we need to know about him that we should know?

ESCOVEDO: Well, he was just a great guy. He was a gentleman and he loved people. Whether he was - showed it or not, he was very shy, but amongst the people who know him, he was very funny.

MCEVERS: That's Sheila Escovedo, better known as Sheila E., remembering her friend, Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.