Former Prince Drummer John Blackwell Jr Dies Aged 43

July 5, 2017

John Blackwell Jr, who played drums for Prince and D'Angelo during his career, has passed away. His wife, Yaritza, confirmed the news on Instagram on Wednesday, Blackwell was 43 years old.

Blackwell's wife, Yaritza Blackwell announced the news of the death on her husband's Instagram account, where she shared a photo of them holding hands. "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."

Prior to his death, Blackwell was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours. He spent the last 12 months crowdfunding money in order to get treatment for his condition.

Blackwell came from a musical family. His father also played the drums and he first took to the instrument when he was just 3 years of age. His initial break in music came when he began playing drums for Patti LaBelle in 1998. He was soon recruited to be part of Prince's band, New Power Generation. He worked with the late icon for 12 years and can be seen on the 2003 Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas DVD.

Though best known for performing and touring with Prince, Blackwell was also a member of D’Angelo’s band the Vanguard and played on Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds tour in 2006.

Musicians have been quick to pay tribute to Blackwell, with a number of highly-respected names expressing their grief via social media. Leading the tributes, long term Prince collaborator Sheila E wrote (via Twitter): “My beautiful friend John Blackwell passed away 2day Plz keep his family in prayer. He was amazing manLuv u my brother.”

On Facebook, meanwhile, legendary James Brown/ Funkadelic bassist William ‘Bootsy’ Collins wrote: “We lost our friend & amazing Drummer, Mr. John Blackwell. Send up yr prayer's & love vibes for his family & friends. Man he was doing better just last week we thought. Leave yr thoughts & comments & I will forward to his Wife "Yaritza". R.I.P. Good brother.”

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