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Former Prince Drummer John Blackwell Jr. Dead at 43

Acclaimed musician, who battled two brain tumors, played with Patti LaBelle, Justin Timberlake, D’Angelo

Drummer John Blackwell Jr., who performed in Prince‘s band New Power Generation for over a decade, has died at age 43. Blackwell’s wife, Yaritza, revealed the news Tuesday on Instagram, writing that he died “peacefully in [her] company.”

Blackwell, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, was based in Tampa, Florida. USA Today‘s message to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office did not receive confirmation of his death.

Blackwell was diagnosed with two brain tumors during a 2016 trip to Japan. A GoFundMe page, established to help cover medical costs, reached over $78,000 as of Tuesday. In an Instagram post last week, Yaritza Blackwell said her husband had been moved to a rehab facility to receive physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Blackwell, a graduate from Berklee College of Music, landed his breakthrough gig playing with Patti LaBelle and appearing on her Grammy-winning 1998 LP, Live! One Night Only. In 2000, Prince recruited Blackwell for his New Power Generation band. Blackwell played on multiple Prince-associated LPs, including 2003 instrumental album, N.E.W.S.

Blackwell also performed alongside major artists like Cameo, Justin Timberlake (in support of 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds), “Bootsy” Collins and D’Angelo (as part of acclaimed live backing band the Vanguard).

Numerous drummers tweeted their condolences and admiration after learning of Blackwell’s death. “Your legend will live 4ever,” wrote Blink-182’s Travis Barker. “One of the best to ever pick up drumsticks.” Prince protégé Sheila E. called Blackwell her “beautiful friend” and an “amazing man.” 

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