John Blackwell Jr., highly-respected drummer in the music community, best known for his 12-years with Prince, died earlier today after battling cancer, according to People.
Blackwell was diagnosed with brain tumors in 2016, which effected the use of his left arm and leg. His wife Yaritza broke the news of his passing on Blackwell’s Instagram.
“My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed the way peacefully in my company today,” she wrote. “Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support.”
Blackwell played in both his high-school jazz and marching bands and started playing jazz clubs at the age of 13. At 17, he landed his first professional gig with Billy Eckstine. After high-school, Blackwell attended Berklee College of Music. He left Berklee in 1995 to play with the funk band Cameo.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1998, Blackwell got a gig with Patti LaBelle. While drumming with LaBelle, Blackwell met Prince at a Minneapolis performance. Blackwell joined Prince’s The New Power Generation band in 2000.
Blackwell was the drummer on Prince’s Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas DVD, and the 2003 instrumental album N.E.W.S, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Blackwell also toured with Justin Timberlake in support of the 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds. He also performed with Crystal Kay, P. Diddy and Charlie Singleton. He was part of D’Angelo’s “The Second Coming” tour in 2015.
He was also in legendary-bassist Bootsy Collins’ Bootsy’s Rubber Band.
Blackwell released his own debut album, The John Blackwell Project, in 2009. He put out two drumming educational videos, John Blackwell – Technique, Grooving and Showmanship, and John Blackwell.
Blackwell was most-recently endorsed by Dixon Drums, Remo Drumheads, Regal Tip Drumsticks, and Turkish Cymbals.
Blackwell performing “Jeremiah’s Sleepy Night”: