More sad new for Prince fans: John Blackwell Jr., a drummer who played with Prince for 15 years, has died at the age of 43. In an Instagram post Tuesday, wife Yaritza said Blackwell had died peacefully in her company, TMZ reports. Blackwell was diagnosed with two brain tumors last year and had to learn to walk again after losing most of the function in his left arm and leg, People reports. He told WTSP at the time that Prince had been a father figure to him and he could imagine the late singer inviting him to play in heaven, USA Today reports. "I can hear Prince now say 'I'll just call John,'" he said. "No you ain't! I don't want to do that gig. Not yet."
Blackwell, a South Carolina native who started drumming when he was just three years old, inspired by his father, drummed with Patti LaBelle before joining Prince's New Power Generation in 2000. He was highly respected for his unique style of drumming. Other musicians paid tribute Tuesday to Blackwell, who also played with Cameo and Justin Timberlake. "Your legend will live 4ever," tweeted Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. "One of the best to ever pick up drumsticks." (Read more Prince stories.)