John Blackwell, Jr., who performed with Prince for 15 years, as well as for Patti LaBelle and Justin Timberlake, is considered a master drummer and has performed all around the globe. But it all came to a terrifying halt during a recent gig in Japan.
“I got to Japan and this.” He picks up his lifeless left hand and then drops it and adds, “And this left leg just dropped out on me.”
Blackwell is now recovering at Tampa General Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center following major surgery to remove tumors in his brain. He currently spends his days learning how to walk again and receiving rehabilitative therapy.
“I get lazy as everybody knows. I’ll be like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ but then something tells me in my mind, ‘Hey bro if I’m going to get out of here and get back to the drums … go to your therapy.'”
Prince, whom Blackwell looked to as a father figure, recruited him to join his stable of musicians. Blackwell says a friend recently told him that he can just imagine Prince calling him to play, even from heaven. Blackwell laughed saying, “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.”
John has medical insurance but isn’t able to earn a living when he’s not playing so a special GoFundMe account has been set up for him to accept donations. John is also in the process of writing a book about his time performing not only with Prince, Timberlake, LaBelle and other artists.
Watch a report about his ordeal below: