Notable Deaths ›

John Blackwell Jr. (1973 - 2017)

Getty / Gabriel Olsen

John Blackwell Jr. (1973 - 2017)

John Blackwell Jr., an acclaimed funk, jazz, and pop drummer who played with the superstar Prince for more than a decade, died Tuesday, July 4, 2017, in Tampa, Florida, according to his wife, Yaritza Blackwell. He was 43.

“My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed the way peacefully in my company today,” she wrote in her Instagram post. She thanked God for her husband’s life and thanked his friends and fans for their support.

Yaritza Blackwell noted on social media that her husband had been diagnosed with two brain tumors about a year ago. It happened while he was in Japan, playing with bassist Nik West at the Blue Note in Tokyo. He underwent treatment there, and later in Florida.

“This whole year has been very challenging not only for John, but for me also,” she wrote. “I pray God for John everyday, every hour... and thank you for your prayers, donations and for the good thoughts for John.”


Click to get weekly celebrity death news delivered to your inbox.


John Blackwell, who was born Sept. 9, 1973, in Columbia, South Carolina, started playing the drums as a 3-year-old; his father also was a drummer. John Jr. began playing in jazz clubs as a teenager.

During his career, he performed with Patti LaBelle for three years. Then Prince hired him in 2000 as a member of the superstar’s band the New Power Generation.

He played with Prince for 12 years, appearing on the icon’s 2003 “Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas” DVD as well as 2003’s “N.E.W.S.” album, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for best pop instrumental album.

In 2006, Blackwell toured with Justin Timberlake on the singer’s “Future Sex/LoveSounds” album.

More recently, Blackwell played in singer D’Angelo’s backing band, the Vanguard, on tour in Europe in 2015.

Blackwell also helped educate future drummers by recording two DVDs sharing the art and techniques of a professional percussionist.

We invite you to share condolences for John Blackwell Jr. in our Guest Book.