John Blackwell

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John Blackwell


Artist details

Birth Name: John Blackwell
Born: 9 September 1973: Columbia, SC, USA
Deceased: 4 July 2017: Tampa,Florida, USA
Occupation: Drummer
Endorsement(s): Tama Drums (Drums, Pedals and Hardware)
Zildjian (Cymbals & Drumsticks)
Activity with Prince: From 2000 to 2004
From 2010 to 2013.
Live Performances
First live appearance w/Prince:
Performed regularly on tour:
Performed occasionally in shows:
With Prince:
  • Singles:
2001: The Work Part 1
2001: She Loves Me 4 Me
2001: Last December
2002: One Nite Alone... Live EP
2002: Days Of Wild
2003: Live At The Aladdin Las Vegas
2004: Controversy (Live In Hawaii)
2011: Extraloveable
2012: Rock And Roll Love Affair
2013: Screwdriver
  • Albums:
2001: The Rainbow Children
2002: One Nite Alone...
2002: One Nite Alone... Live!
2002: One Nite Alone... The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over!
2003: Xpectation
2003: N.E.W.S.
2004: Musicology
2004: C-Note
2015: Hitnrun Phase Two
With Prince's Associates:
  • Singles:
2015: Judith Hill - Cry, Cry, Cry
  • Albums:
2012: Andy Allo - Superconductor
2015: Judith Hill - Back In Time
Self Productions with Prince:
  • None

John Blackwell was an American contemporary R&B, funk, jazz, fusion, and pop drummer. After working with Cameo and Patti LaBelle, John Blackwell was recruited by Prince and took over Kirk Johnson’s position as drummer of The NPG in September 2000. He was the first musician to play from beginning to end, barring an interlude, on an album Prince / SymbolSmallerBlue.png released under his own name (The Rainbow Children).

After the Musicology Live 2004ever tour, John Blackwell left The NPG and was recruited by Justin Timberlake, whom with he toured for two years. He came back working with Prince as The NPG drummer in July 2010, while he continued to pursue his own projects, and collaboration with other artists.

Musical Career
Early Life

Son of John Blackwell Senior, a professional drummer who played with artists such as Mary Wells, King Curtis, Joe Simon, J.J. Jackson and The Drifters, and Mamie S. Blackwell, a music enthusiast, John grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and started playing drums at age 3, learning from his father.

As a teenager, John played in high school marching and jazz bands. He played in jazz clubs from age 13 until he graduated from high school. His first professional and paid job as a drummer was with with singer and swing band leader Billy Eckstine at 17. After high school he enrolled with the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. While still at Berklee he played with Herman Johnson, a renowned American Jazz Saxophonist. They played every week at Ryles Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Blackwell also played at at Wally’s Café until the time he left Berklee after graduating in 1995.

Early Musical Career

Soon after leaving Berklee in 1995, Blackwell joined American funk band, Cameo with whom he played with for the next three years. In 1998, he was recruited by Patti LaBelle and moved to Los Angeles. He played with Patti on "Live! One Night Only" (CD, DVD and VHS), an album rewarded with a Grammy Award.

In May of 2000, Blackwell was invited to join Utada Hikaru, a Japanese teen sensation and pop star on her "Bohemian Summer 2000 Nationwide Tour of Japan". He performed continually with Utada Hikaru for three months and participated on her album "Distance", contributing to the Song "Parody".

Work With Prince

Having met Prince and Larry Graham in 1999 in Minneapolis and New York while performing with Patti LaBelle, John Blackwell was invited over to Paisley Park Studios. While still working with Patti LaBelle, and then Utada Hikaru, Blackwell traveled to Minneapolis regularly to play with the band. Two days after Utada Hikaru tour ended on 31 August 2000, he flew to Minneapolis and became The NPG’s drummer, a position he kept until late 2004 when he left the retainer.

In 2009, John Blackwell briefly joins The NPG for several one-off performances in Los Angeles, Montreux and Monaco. Since July 2010, he returned to his position as drummer of The NPG, replacing Cora Coleman-Dunham and has been The NPG drummer since.

  • Input in Prince’s Discography
to be completed
  • Input in Prince’s Live performances
to be completed
  • Recent work with Prince
to be completed
After Working With Prince

After leaving The NPG in 2004, John Blackwell worked with Justin Timberlake whom with he toured in 2006 & 2007. He has also recorded with P. Diddy and various acts on his label. More recently John played with Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly.

He has two educational drum DVDs. The first is a two-disc set entitled "John Blackwell-Technique, Grooving and Showmanship" while the second is self-titled "John Blackwell" and is part of the Hudson Music Masters Series.

With his own band, The John Blackwell Project, he released 4Evr Jia in 2009, an homage record to his daughter Jia, deceased in 2004 in a tragic pool accident at age two.

The Jia Kennie Blackwell Memorial Scholarship Fund

With his wife Joann, John Blackwell established the Jia Kennie Blackwell Memorial Scholarship, in order to support outstanding female musicians at Berklee who demonstrate musical potential and financial need. A memorial concert was held at the Berklee Performance Center on 11 December 2004: a portion of the proceeds from the concert went to promote water safety, while the majority of the proceeds were used to provide scholarship support.

Battle with brain cancer and passing

Following a performance with Nik West at the Blue Note in Tokyo on July 2016, John Blackwell was diagnosed with two brain tumors. After two brain surgeries, John Blackwell died at the Tampa Hospital at the age of 43.

Additional Information

See also Trivia

  • While in the midst of Musicology Live 2004ever, Blackwell and his wife Joann experienced personal tragedy in June of 2004 when their two-year-old daughter Jia drowned in their backyard pool. Some concerts of the Musicology Live 2004ever tour were rescheduled to accommodate Blackwell’s brief absence from the tour.

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