John Blackwell Jr., former Prince drummer, dies at 43

COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX) - Columbia native and former Prince drummer John Blackwell, Jr. has died, according to his Instagram account.

Blackwell's wife, Yaritza, shared the news through Blackwell's Instragram account, saying he died peacefully today with her by his side. He was just 43 years old.



Blackwell, who performed with Prince for 15 years, was considered a master drummer and was known for his unique style of drumming.

Blackwell graduated from Keenan High School, and is from a large family of musicians. He graduated from Berklee College of Music before being recruited by Prince to play in his band.

Blackwell also performed with a number of other high profile artists, including Patti LaBelle, Justin Timberlake, and Cameo.

Blackwell continued to play all over the world until it was discovered last year he had two brain tumors while in Japan playing the Blue Note Tokyo. 



Since that diagnosis, Blackwell changed his focus to undergoing surgeries and fighting to survive, although he lost the use of an arm when doctors removed part of his brain while removing the tumors.

Blackwell said last fall Prince was like a father figure to him and recruited him to play with him. He said a dear friend had recently told him that he could just imagine Prince calling for him to play even in heaven. Blackwell laughed saying, "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."

One of his last performances was with Columbia guitarist Terence Young. We'll speak to him about the life and legacy of John Blackwell, Jr. tonight on News19 at 11 p.m.

© 2018 WLTX-TV


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