John Blackwell Jr., the stylish percussion powerhouse best known for his 15-year tenure with Prince, has died after battling cancer. He was 43 years old.
His wife Yaritza shared the news on Tuesday with a photo posted to Blackwell’s Instagram.
“My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed the way [sic] peacefully in my company today,” she captioned an image of her grasping his hand. “Thanks [sic] God for his life and thanks everyone for their support.”
The Florida based musician was diagnosed with brain tumors in 2016, which dramatically effected the use of his left arm and leg. Last summer he spent a lengthy spell in the Tampa General Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center enrolled in intensive therapy to learn how to walk once again.
“I get lazy as everybody knows. 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,'” he told Tampa Bay’s 10 News at the time.
A GoFundMe had been set up in his name to help cover medical expenses while he was unable to work.
#Repost @adorep83 (@get_repost) ・・・ Prince & Sheila😍 Love them together!! Such charisma!! ❣they were an awesome team💃🏽🕺🏽 ~~ ~~ #Prince #legend #guitargod #theartist #princerogersnelson #hisroyalbadness #princestagram #thepurpleone #icon #purplerain #thebeautifulones #ripprince #thepurplearmy #love #whendovescry #music #musicology#unity#peace✨💜✨💜
After taking up drums at just 3 years old, Blackwell played with legendary R&B diva Patti LaBelle before joining Prince’s band, The New Power Generation in 2000. He also performed with Justin Timberlake. He had reportedly been working on a book about his experiences on the stage.
Tributes from fellow musicians—including Timberlake—and admirers began to appear on social media soon after his death was announced
“We lost another brother… John Blackwell made his transition today!!!” wrote Morris Day, who also worked with Prince as a member of the Time. “Our prayers go out to his wife and family!”