The Tampa-based Blackwell was a member of his band the New Power Generation and was Prince’s drummer for more than a decade. The Columbia, South Carolina native grew up in a musical family as his father, John Blackwell, Sr. was also a drummer.
Blackwell played for Patti Labelle, Justin Timberlake, Diddy, Maze and Bootsy Collins in his career. He’s released two instructional drumming DVD’s as well as a solo album in 2009, The John Blackwell Project.
Blackwell collapsed on stage at an overseas show last year and was taken to the hospital. Blackwell was diagnosed with brain tumors and had been fighting for his life. His condition improved and he was being treated at a rehab facility but was in intensive care last month.
“Me and Prince were like, and don’t take this the wrong way, girlfriend and boyfriend [laughs]. You have your moments when you have falling outs and then your make-ups. That’s how it was with that guy.
Prince was very demanding and sometimes things would get crazy. And I’m like, “Man, I’m going home.” Then I get home and see my wife and my kids and I’m telling her, “Oh, I’m so happy to see you! I had to get away from Prince.” And then my wife starts acting crazy and I call Prince and say, “Hey, man…you got any studio work?” Can I get up there? [Laughs] Prince expected everybody to be as good as him. He always wanted me to see music as belonging to everybody.”
A Go Fund Me account set up by his wife four months ago, had raised about $79,000. Blackwell is survived by his wife, Yaritza and their children. Blackwell’s daughter, Jia, 2, died tragically in a backyard pool in 2004.