Prince’s Drummer John Blackwell Jr. Dies At 43

Prince's longtime drummer John Blackwell Jr. dies at 43

John Blackwell Jr., Prince’s main drummer for about 15 years, passed away on Tuesday. According to his wife, Yaritza, Blackwell Jr. died peacefully at the age of 43.

Yaritza Blackwell announced the sad news of the drummer’s death in a statement released yesterday on her husband’s Instagram.

“Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support,” she said, adding that he died peacefully in her company.

The sad news on Instagram was accompanied by a poignant photo showing her holding her husband’s hand.

Yaritza’s statement did not state the cause of Blackwell’s death, but it is known that the South Carolina-born percussionist had been under intensive medical care for a brain tumor since last year. He fell ill last year while performing in Japan and took a battery of diagnostic tests that confirmed he had a brain tumor.

He underwent two major brain surgeries to remove the tumor after losing the use of his left arm while performing in Japan. He underwent rehabilitation at the Tampa General Hospital to restore the use of the arm.

Yaritza set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help cover the cost of the expensive tests, medical treatments and surgeries. The GoFundMe page, set up last July, raised nearly $80,000.

Blackwell was introduced to the drums very early in life by his father, John Blackwell Sr., also a professional drummer who played with King Curtis, J.J. Jackson, The Drifters, and Mary Wells. Blackwell Jr. reportedly took up drumming at the age of three, according to the Daily Mail.

The graduate of Berklee College of Music is known for his virtuoso skill and unique drumming style. He joined Prince’s New Power Generation Band in 2000. He had toured with various other groups and musicians, including Patti LaBelle, Cameo, Justine Timberlake, and D’Angelo, before he joined Prince’s band.

He had a close relationship with Prince. In an August 2016 interview with Tampa’s WTSP-TV, while recuperating at the Tampa General Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center, he described Prince as a father figure.

He recalled that a friend told him that he could imagine Prince calling for Blackwell to play with his heavenly band.

“I can hear Prince now say, ‘I’ll just call John.’ No, you ain’t! I don’t want to do that gig. Not yet.'”

He also talked about his ongoing rehabilitation.

“I get lazy as everybody knows,” he said. “I’ll be like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ but then something tells me in my mind, ‘Hey bro, if I’m going to get out of here and get back to the drums… go to your therapy.'”

Thousands of Blackwell’s fans worldwide have expressed their condolences on social media since the news of his death broke yesterday. Several of his professional colleagues, including Sheila E, bassist William ‘Bootsy’ Collins, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, Michael Jackson’s former back-up singer Judith Hill, posted tributes on social media. The bassist Nik West, who was performing with Blackwell in Japan when he fell ill, also posted a moving tribute.

“My beautiful friend John Blackwell passed away 2day Plz keep his family in prayer.”

“Thank you for everything you shared with us John. Your beautiful spirit and incredible music will live on 4Ever!”

[Featured Image by Aldas/Shutterstock]