Berklee Today: John Blackwell '95

By 
Mark Small
March 15, 2006
John Blackwell '95
Photo by Anthony Pigeon

Prince has called his drummer, John Blackwell, "one of the greatest." That's high praise from a six-time Grammy Award winner and multi-instrumentalist who is an accomplished drummer himself. Blackwell has been playing with Prince onstage and in the studio since 1999, and the link between him and the legendary performer has solidified Blackwell's reputation as an emerging titan of contemporary r&b and funk drumming.

As a youth growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, Blackwell was initiated into the world of drumming through his father, John Blackwell Sr. Before becoming an electrical engineer, the senior Blackwell had been a professional drummer who played with artists such as the Drifters, the Spinners, Mary Wells, and others. The junior Blackwell recalls his father letting him get behind his drums by age three. He says that the most valuable lesson he ever learned from his father was that putting the song "in the pocket" is what matters most for the drummer. "That was what got him work," recalls Blackwell.

Read more about John Blackwell '95 in Berklee Today.