Prince met Sheila at a concert in 1978, when she was performing with her father. After the show, he met her and told her that he and his bassist "were just fighting about which one of us would be the first to be your husband". He also prophetically vowed that one day she would join his band. The two would eventually join forces during the Purple Rain recording sessions. She provided vocals on the B-side to "Let's Go Crazy", "Erotic City" in 1983/84. Though taken under Prince's wing, she proved to be a successful artist in her own right. In 1984 she scored hits with "The Glamorous Life" (#7 on the Hot 100), and "The Belle of St. Mark" (#34). She opened for the Purple Rain tour and there was a segment where she would have a man called up on stage and seated in a chair while she sang "Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar" and teased him (similarly mirrored by Janet Jackson during the "Rope Burn" segment of her Velvet Rope Tour in 1998/99.) Around the same time, the collaborating duo began a brief romantic relationship, while Prince was still seeing Susannah Melvoin, twin sister of The Revolution band member, Wendy Melvoin.
In 1985, she released Romance 1600, scored another hit with the track "A Love Bizarre" (#11), and the non-album track "Hollyrock" made its way to live shows and into the film Krush Groove. She was also nominated for an American Music Award and a Grammy for "The Glamorous Life". Sheila recorded three albums during the '80s, The Glamorous Life, Romance 1600, and Sheila E. She appeared in four films, Krush Groove with Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J and Blair Underwood in 1985, Prince's concert film, Sign 'O' the Times in 1987, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Chasing Papi in 2003.
During the Sign o' the Times, Black Album, and Lovesexy periods of Prince's career (including the Lovesexy World Tour), Sheila E. served as his drummer and musical director in his backup band, dubbed The New Power Generation not long after her departure. During the Sign o' the Times era, she released the single "Koo Koo" from her 3rd album Sheila E., which had Sign o' the Times member Cat as a backup dancer in the accompanying video. Sheila E. also served as a writer and musician on many of Prince's records, as well as on the albums of his protégés such as Madhouse.
After leaving the Prince organization in 1989, Sheila E. recorded a few more albums, Sex Cymbal, Writes of Passage, and Heaven. However, the albums garnered little attention. This was especially true in the case of Sex Cymbal, since Sheila E.'s health issues prevented her from touring in order to promote it. In 2002 Sheila E. appeared on the Beyoncé Knowles song "Work It Out".
Sheila E. was the leader of the house band on the short-lived 1998 late night talk show, The Magic Hour, starring Magic Johnson.
She played percussion on the Phil Collins cover of "True Colors" in 1998.
In 1996 she played with a band in Japan that back up Japanese singer Namie Amuro. In Chiba marine stadium Japan, also available on DVD.
Sheila E. has performed three stints with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, in 2001, 2003, and 2006. Her drum "duets" with Starr are a moment of comic relief in the show, where they play the same parts but he quickly falls behind, shrugs and smiles as she takes off on an extended percussion solo. Says Sheila E.: "Ringo truly is one of the greatest rock n' roll drummers in the history of music. He enjoys the joke!"
In 2004, Sheila E. toured New Zealand as drummer and percussionist for the Abe Laboriel Band.
In 2004, Sheila E. was also featured on Tonex's Gold Album OUT THE BOX on the song "Todos Juntos". She also play drums on Cyndi Lauper's hit album of standard covers, At Last. She played percussion on the song Stay. Sheila joined Lauper on a live version of that song on VH-1 Divas.
In 2005, Sheila E. was a surprise guest orchestrating a band, in Amerie's "1 Thing" performances for The Lady Of Soul & World Music Awards.
In February 2006, Sheila E. performed with Prince (and Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman) once again at the BRIT Awards.
She also performed at Prince's One Nite Alone... Live! concert, Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas in 2003, 36th NAACP Image Awards in 2005, and on the Good Morning show in June 2006.
In March 2007, she went on a small tour through Europe with her new band project called C.O.E.D. (Chronicles of Every Diva). C.O.E.D. consists of Sheila E., Kat Dyson, Rhonda Smith and Cassandra O'Neal. For several concerts she was joined by Candy Dulfer, who was billed as a special guest.
She performed at the 2007 Latin Grammy Awards with Juan Luis Guerra. She also performed at the ALMA (American Latin Music Awards) Awards in June 2007 with Prince, and on July 7, 2007 in Minneapolis with Prince. She performed at all three of his concerts: first, at Prince's 3121 perfume launch at Macy's, followed by the Target Center concert, and finally, at an aftershow at First Avenue.
In October 2007, Sheila E. was a judge alongside Australian Idol judge and marketing manager Ian "Dicko" Dickson and Goo Goo Dolls lead singer John Rzeznik on the Fox network's The Next Great American Band.
Sheila E. recently met with Prince on March 29, 2008, who sat in on (and played keyboard) on Sheila E.'s performance with her family at Harvelle Redondo Beach.
On April 9, 2008, Sheila E. appeared on the Emmy winning program, Idol Gives Back. Shelia E. took part in the show opener "Get on Your Feet" with Gloria Estefan. Dance troupe, So You Think You Can Dance finalists joined them on stage.
On April 26, 2008, Sheila E., along with Morris Day and Jerome Benton, performed with Prince at the Coachella Music Festival.
From May 2 to 6th, 2008, Sheila E. played four sold-out shows at Blue Note Tokyo in Japan. This is the most frequented jazz music club in Tokyo.
On June 14, 2008, Sheila E. performed at the Rhythm on the Vine music and wine festival at the South Coast Winery in Temecula, California for Shriners Hospital for Children. She took the stage with the E Family, Pete Escovedo, Juan Escovedo and Peter Michael Escovedo. Other performers at the event were jazz musician Herbie Hancock, contemporary music artist Jim Brickman and Kirk Whalum.
In February 2009, she was made an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority by the Eta Delta Chapter located at Howard University in recognition of her humanitarian efforts through and in music.
On May 30, 2009, Sheila E. and the E Family Band will once again take the stage to perform at Rhythm on the Vine at Gainey Vineyard in Santa Ynez, California for the Hot Latin Beats concert. Also to perform at the concert is Poncho Sanchez.
On December 13, 2009, Sheila E. performed at the Deryck Walcott produced Christmas Jazz held at the Plantation Restaurant in Barbados.
Sheila E. is the business partner of singer and former member of The Brides of Funkenstein, Lynn Mabry. They formed a foundation for abused children called the Elevate Hope Foundation.
Sheila E. has collaborated many times with other artists, notably with Gloria Estefan for whom she played the timbales. Sheila E. first collaborated with Estefan on Estefan's first Spanish language studio album Mi Tierra in 1993, and in 2007 with Estefan's smash hit "No Llores" in which Estefan also collaborates with Carlos Santana and José Feliciano. She also is one fourth of the band C.O.E.D. (Chronicles of Every Diva), who as of 2008 are touring overseas and released a CD available in limited distribution or through her website.
Sheila E. recently won the CMT reality show, Gone Country. This will give her an opportunity to make country music aided by the country producer, writer, and singer John Rich. Sheila E.'s first song in the country market is "Glorious Train". A video for the song debuted on CMT on March 7, 2009 following the airing of the episode of Gone Country in which Sheila E. was announced the winner.