John Blackwell Jr., former drummer for the late Prince, died at the age of 43 on Tuesday in Florida after his year-long battle with cancer.
His wife Yaritza Blackwell announced the news in an Instagram post shared from the drummer’s page. She said that her husband died “peacefully in [her] company” in the caption of a photo of the two holding hands. “Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support,” she continued.
Doctors found tumors in Blackwell’s brain during a trip to Japan in 2016. His wife created a GoFundMe to raise money for Blackwell’s hospital expenses. Throughout the past year, Blackwell has experienced seizures, and various issues that dramatically impacted the use of his left arm and leg and breathing problems. The family had raised more than $79,000 as of Wednesday.
Four days before his death, Yaritza shared an update on Instagram about her husband’s health.
“This whole year has been very challenging not only for John, but for me also, that have to provide the care he needs, and with the help of God, you as donors, and his doctors, nurses and therapists he is still fighting hard to get better,” she wrote. “Today, he faces another hospital change, now to a rehab facility, where he will receive Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapies to continue his long recovery process.”
One year ago, my husband, incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. was diagnosed with brain tumors while in Japan playing at the Blue Note Tokyo in a featuring with top bassist Nik West. This whole year has been very challenging not only for John, but for me also, that have to provide the care he needs, and with the help of God, you as donors, and his doctors, nurses and therapists he is still fighting hard to get better. Today, he faces another hospital change, now to a rehab facility, where he will receive Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapies to continue his long recovery process. I want to give special thanks to my mother, that for three months has been next to me everyday taking care of me and John, his friends John Spinelli, Tim Conwell, Bruce Harris and Takuya Futaesaku -Takki- and everyone who has visited him including his family, my family and his drummers friends Gregg Bissonette, Dennis Chambers, Antonio Sánchez, Billy Cobham, Chad Smith, Natalie Depergola, Connor Fass, Eric from Tampa, and musician Joe Cosas, just to name a few. I pray God for John everyday, every hour… and thank you for your prayers, donations and for the good thoughts for John. Yaritza
One of Blackwell’s first breakthrough gigs was performing with Patti Labelle for three years. He also appeared on her Grammy-winning “Live! One Night Only” album in 1998.
Blackwell began performing in Prince’s New Power Generation in 2000 and played with the band for more than a decade. He also played on a few of the legendary artist’s projects, including “N.E.W.S.” and “Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas.”
He also performed alongside other major artists including Cameo, Justin Timberlake, “Bootsy” Collins and D’Angelo.
Tributes for Blackwell have been pouring in from musicians including Prince protege Sheila E., Questlove and Travis Barker.
My beautiful friend John Blackwell passed away 2day Plz keep his family in prayer. He was amazing manLuv u my brother pic.twitter.com/X08DYf7MJO
— SheilaEdrummer (@SheilaEdrummer) July 4, 2017
Blackwell was reportedly working on a book about his experiences on stage, according to People.