John Blackwell Jr., a musician best known for having toured with Prince as the artist’s main drummer for over a decade, passed away on Tuesday.
He was 43 years old.
The exact cause of death is unknown at this time, but Blackwell was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year after falling ill and undergoing a number of tests in Japan.
The popular drummer's wife, Yaritza, who updates her husband’s social media accounts, shared the news Tuesday on Instagram via an image of her grasping his hand.
She wrote that he died “peacefully” in her company and added:
“Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support.”
Last July, his wife set up a GoFundMe account to cover Blackwell’s medical expenses; it has raised over $78,000 to date.
According to USA Today, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office in Tampa has been asked for further information on Blackwell’s passing, but has not yet responded to this request
Blackwell took to stages around the world alongside Prince for 15 years.
He was well known and beloved for his unique style of drumming, having graduated from Berklee College of Music before being recruited by Prince in 2000 to play in his band New Power Generation.
Blackwell also performed with Patti LaBelle, Justin Timberlake and Cameo, among other big-time artists and singers.
He tragically lost an arm over the last year, as he underwent various surgeries in an attempt overcome his diagnosis.
In the fall of 2016, Blackwell told Tampa TV station WTSP-TV that Prince was like a father figure to him. The two friends were extremely close.
He said another close acquintence had recently told him that he could just imagine Prince calling for him to play as part of his band up in heaven.
"I can hear Prince now say, 'I'll just call John.' No, you ain't! I don't want to do that gig. Not yet," Blackwell, who took up drumming at the age of three, said at the time.
In response to his passing, many others within the world of music expressed their sadness and sent their condolences on social media.
To wit, Sheila E. wrote:
"My beautiful friend John Blackwell passed away 2day Plz keep his family in prayer. He was amazing manLuv u my brother," along with the following picture:
Added Travis Barker:
"Rest In Peace #JohnBlackwell Your legend will live 4ever. One of the best to ever pick up drumsticks. Prayers to family and friends."
And Morris Day:
"We lost another brother... John Blackwell made his transition today!!! Our prayers go out to his wife and family!"
We share these sentiments and we send our best wishes to Blackwell's family.
May he rest in peace.