R.I.P.-Prince’s & Labelle’s Longtime Drummer Dies At 43..SheilaE. &Others Pay Tribute

Posted On : July 4, 2017
John Blackwell Jr., the longtime drummer for Prince and former drummer for Patti Labelle

Sad news to report this Independence day ILOSM fam.’ The longtime drummer for Prince and also Patti Labelle, John Blackwell Jr. passed away today at the young age of 43. He had ben battling brain cancer, which affected his left arm and leg, since 2016. In an emotional Instagram post, Blackwell’s wife, Yaritza posted a photo of herself holding his hand and announced that he’d passed away, surrounded by love:

John Blackwell Jr. and his wife, Yaritza

“My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed [away] peacefully in my company today. … [Thank] God for his life and thanks everyone for their support.”

My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed the way peacefully in my company today. Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support. Yaritza

A post shared by John Blackwell (@johnblackwelljr) on

As soon as news started to spread of Blackwell Jr.’s passing, several entertainers started paying homage to him online. Many of them knew John well, from his 15 years of working with Prince and his other with Patti, Justin Timberlake, and others prior to Prince.

Sheila E. has performed with John during concerts with Prince and had this to say about him:

Morris Day wrote:

Blink 182’s drummer, Travis Barker paid homage also:


Here is a clip of John and Sheila E. cuttin’ up on stage with Prince:


Blackwell Jr. had been playing drums since the age of 3. So it was a devastating blow when he learned that he had cancer and also that it ended up affecting his motor skills. He was determined to fight with everything in him to beat it though. During his cancer treatments, he had to learn how to walk again. Here’s what he stated in an August 2016 interview with Tampa Bay 10 News:

John Blackwell Jr. on when he first noticed something was wrong while performing in Japan: “I got to Japan and this.” He picks up his lifeless left hand and then drops it and adds, “And this left leg just dropped out on me.”

Blackwell Jr. on his treatments and therapy sessions: “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.”

A GoFundMe page had previously been set up to assist with John’s amounting medical bills, since he was unable to work toward his last year of life. As his family grieves his very sad passing at such a young age, anyone out there who wants to help can still donate to his page here.

Rest in power John Blackwell, Jr.- gone too soon, but never forgotten. Our sicerest condolences to his wife, family and loved ones.

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