Blackwell's wife, Yaritza Blackwell announced the news of the death on her husband's Instagram account, where she shared a photo of them holding hands. "My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed the way peacefully in my company today," she wrote. "Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support."
Prior to his death Blackwell was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors. He spent the last 12 months crowdfunding money in order to get treatment for his condition.
Blackwell's first break in music came when he began playing drums for Patti LaBelle in 1998. He was soon recruited to be part of Prince's band, New Power Generation. He worked with the late icon for 12 years and can be seen on his 2003 Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas DVD.
Though best known for performing and touring with Prince, Blackwell was also a member of D’Angelo’s band the Vanguard and played on Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds tour in 2006.