Sheila E. Addresses Prince's Drug Use and 'Hundreds' of Unreleased Songs – Plus More Revelations from Her Larry King Interview
Sheila E. is opening up about her friend and one-time fiancé Prince’s life and legacy.
The singer-drummer, 58, sat down with Larry King for the season five premiere of his Ora TV series Larry King Now, which aired Monday. During the interview, Sheila E. – who released her Prince tribute song “Girl Meets Boy” exclusively with PEOPLE last month and plans to release new music in the fall – discussed the late icon, who died in April of an accidental overdose of the prescription painkiller fentanyl.
From Prince’s drug use to the drama surrounding Madonna‘s Billboard Music Awards tribute, here are five revelations from Sheila E.’s interview with King.
1. She says she wasn’t aware of Prince taking medication to manage pain.
After King asked Sheila E., “Did you know about him taking medication for pain?” the drummer said, “Not necessarily. I’ve never even seen him take an aspirin or a Tylenol. I’ve never seen him take anything.”
As Sheila E. already told PEOPLE in April, she would not be surprised if Prince suffered from chronic pain from the strain of his years of performing.
“I know that he was in pain because I know that I’m in pain half the time. I’ve got injuries; I’ve fallen onstage. There’s times where some of the pieces of the set have fallen on my head, hit my arm,” she told King. “I was always getting hurt, and so was he. Just think about it: If you look at him jumping from one riser to another, like this, in those heels. I don’t know how he did it. And then in the splits and turning…”
2. Working together may have been what driven them apart and ended their engagement.
“I said yes, and he asked me, and then it just kind of…” she trailed off. “Yeah, [I had a ring], but I let that go.”
The couple first met at a concert in Oakland in 1978 and began working collaborating together shortly after.
“We were working together 24/7: We were always together, and it was a good and a bad thing. I think after a while, I started to feel like musically where he was going, I didn’t want to be anymore,” said Sheila E. “It was just a lot of cursing, more so than he was before, and just the direction was not as musical as I wanted it to be. I felt like it was time for me to leave. It was a different time.”
While they parted ways for a time both personally and creatively in the late ’80s, they reconnected and were close until he died.
“There were times when I didn’t see him, but it seemed like it was just a week, you know?” she said.
3. There are ”hundreds” of unreleased Prince songs – but even she doesn’t know if they’ll ever be heard.
“He’s got a lot of unreleased music, yeah. I don’t know. I know that one interview he did a long time ago, he stated that he wouldn’t release it, but he said maybe someday someone would,” Sheila E. said. “I know [from] about three or four years of recording with him at one point, there’s hundreds of songs that I recorded with him that I have not heard yet. Hundreds. And I know that in the vault, there’s a lot of music.”
4. She almost didn’t participate in the BET Awards’ Prince tribute.
“Yeah, [that was hard to do]. When I said yes to BET, I reluctantly said yes because it was too close to after him passing, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do it,” she said of the June 26 performance.
Sheila E. performed a 10-minute medley of Prince hits and their collaborations, including: “Housequake,” “Erotic City,” “Let’s Work,” “U Got the Look,” “A Love Bizarre,” “The Glamorous Life,” “Soul Salsa,” “Baby I’m a Star,”
“At that time, I couldn’t look at a picture of him; I couldn’t listen to his music. Anytime anyone said anything and ‘how are you doing?’ I’d just start crying. It was just very emotional,” she said of her hesitation to take part in honoring her pal. “Even putting the music together was very emotional because I had to sit down and think about: ‘What am I gonna do that I could get through and perform without breaking down?’ I tried to do music that him and I are both known for.”
5. She hasn’t seen Madonna’s BBMAs tribute.
“I didn’t, and I still haven’t,” Sheila E. said of the tribute Madge and Stevie Wonder’s paid at the Billboard Music Awards in May.
BET’s official Twitter account and Prince fans took to social media to throw shade at the pop icon. But, Questlove, who introduced the performance, defended the “Living for Love” singer, who once dated Prince, posting on Twitter: “So I know there is gonna be A LOT of ‘feel a certain ways’ about who you want to see do his music justice – but you gotta put that aside y’all … But the point is let’s not get ugly with playing the ‘Prince would and wouldn’t approve’ game.”