Sheila E. proved that nothing compares to her tribute to Prince. The longtime Prince collaborator paid tribute to the late music icon with an incredible performance at the BET Awards. Sheila E. was accompanied by the Time’s Jerome Benton and Prince’s ex-wife, dancer Mayte Garcia, for the long-awaited — and totally appropriate — tribute.
Sheila E.’s supersized medley was just one of seven tributes to the Purple One at the annual BET Awards show, and it didn’t disappoint like the previous Madonna-led tribute at the Billboard Music Awards did. After Madonna’s homage to Prince, which included the Material Girl on a purple throne singing two classic Prince songs, BET posted a teaser for the upcoming BET Awards, which teased a more suitable tribute would be on the way.
“Yeah we saw that. Don’t worry, we got you,” the BET promo teased.
And BET definitely delivered with Sheila E.
Sheila E. kicked off her BET Awards performance with “Housequake,” a song she often played when she was a member of Prince’s band. Sheila then went into the “Let’s Go Crazy” B-side “Erotic City,” the 1981 song “Let’s Work,” 1987’s “U Got the Look,” and a few of the Prince-penned hits that made Sheila famous in her own right in the ’80s: “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre.” Sheila ended her tribute with the Revolution’s “America” and the Purple Rain anthem “Baby, I’m a Star.” Sheila E. had tears in her eyes when she held her Prince-style guitar in the air at the end of the performance.
After the show, Sheila E. told Access Hollywood she only had two days of rehearsals for the epic tribute. Sheila also said she felt “mentally drained” from the emotional performance. Sheila E. is now planning a new album dedicated to Prince, as well as a tour.
Sheila E.’s performance has seemingly silenced her critics. Last month, 4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry commented that Sheila E. and some of Prince’s other past collaborators were not “relevant” enough to honor the late singer at the Billboard Music Awards. Perry made her comments on the CBS show The Talk when trying to explain why Madonna was asked to headline the Prince tribute instead of Sheila E. or other Prince pals.
After The Talk co-host Sheryl Underwood suggested musicians like Larry Graham, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Morris Day and the Time, and Sheila E. all “come together to have a big jam session” to honor Prince, Perry said some of those artists just aren’t relevant enough anymore.
“In all fairness, Madonna was asked to do this and she was friends with Prince but you also have to think about it’s really the Billboard Awards, they think about who is hot and popular,” Perry said at the time. “They’re not gonna call up Chaka Khan and re-put together The Time and Sheila E. because they’re not relevant right now.”
Perry did try to backtrack and later admitted that Billboard’s producers should have thought bigger and invited artists like Sheila E. and The Time to perform at the show, but the damage was done.
Sheila E. quickly shot back with an angry Instagram post directed at Perry, reminding all artists that they are relevant no matter what a “misinformed” talk show guest thinks.
“On behalf of musicians, artists, creators, performers and anyone aspiring to be one of those, YOU ARE RELEVANT!” Sheila E. wrote. “It was exactly that type of attitude and comment, recently conveyed on a talk show by a misinformed guest, that Prince, Paisley Park and those who have been an extension of, continually fought, and still fight, against. The creations and the creators, contrary to fleeting popularity or fame, is what breathes life into art. The lack of understanding, and myopic view of dollars over sense is what perpetuates the ignorance that continually works against the artist and the industry. I am offended! #RELEVANT”
In addition to Sheila E.’s BET tribute, musicians Bilal, Janelle Monae, Maxwell, Jennifer Hudson, Erykah Badu, and Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly all paid homage to the late music legend.
During the show, Tina Knowles remembered other fallen music legends like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, saying that it’s time to “celebrate [musicians] while they are alive.”
“Let’s give our flowers to our artists who give so much to entertain us. Let’s have them smell the flowers while they are still alive,” Knowles said.
With her long-awaited Prince tribute, Sheila E. definitely gave her longtime collaborator a bouquet full.
[Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images]