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John Blackwell: Drumming legend dies aged 43

Laura  Barnes
John Blackwell: Drumming legend dies aged 43

John Blackwell Jr, the influential drummer known for working with big name acts such as Prince, Pattie LaBelle, P Diddy, Justin Timberlake and more, has sadly passed away at the age of 43.

A personal hero of mine, Blackwell was known for his inventive and varied drumming techniques, as well as his impressive stick twirling and showmanship.

He stated that he experienced synesthesia since he was a child, seeing colours for musical notes, and was identified as having perfect pitch while in high school.

Known in the industry for his impeccable R&B, funk, jazz, fusion, and pop drumming, Blackwell spent 12 years playing with Prince and also performed at the 2008 Buddy Rich Memorial Concert.
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Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Blackwell and started playing drums at age 3. He learned from his father, John Blackwell Sr., a drummer himself, who played with Mary Wells, King Curtis, Joe Simon, J.J. Jackson, The Drifters, and The Spinners to name but a few.

In June, Blackwell announced that he had lost the use of his left arm and leg, and that as a result he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

His wife made the following announcement on Instagram today (July 4th, 2017):

“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.”

Below is one of my personal favourite performances of John Blackwell where you can see him donning is iconic black hat and showing off the skills that made him such a well-known figure in the drumming community.

Tags: drummer , obituary , John Blackwell

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