Music News: Drummer John Blackwell Jr., who played with Prince, dies at 43


John Blackwell
John Blackwell (courtesy the artist)

Drummer John Blackwell Jr. has died at age 43 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Blackwell is best-known for his years performing with Prince, starting in 2000 when he joined the New Power Generation. He also played with artists including D'Angelo, Justin Timberlake, and Patti LaBelle.

Blackwell grew up in Columbia, South Carolina; in 2011, Prince made a $250,000 donation to benefit education in the impoverished neighborhood where Blackwell grew up, shortly after he and the New Power Generation played a show in Columbia. (People, San Diego Union Tribune)

First look at Morrissey biopic

There's a new trailer for England Is Mine, an unauthorized biopic about Morrissey’s young Manchester days just as the Smiths were forming. Actor Jack Lowden plays Morrissey, with Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay as his friend Linder Sterling. The film premiered July 2 at the Edinburgh International Film Festival; it will be released in the U.K. on Aug. 4, but no U.S. release has been scheduled yet. (Rolling Stone)

Film critic Wendy Ide calls the film "a suitably abrasive study of one of British pop's spikiest characters," but notes that fans are apt to "most keenly" notice the absence of any actual Smiths music.

Based on the trailer alone, Morrissey's childhood friend and early bandmate James Maker is already slamming the movie as "insulting" and a "misrepresentation." (Billboard)

Today's rock sales

Hundreds of books owned by Warren Zevon are going up for sale on eBay, one by one. Zevon's daughter Crystal Zevon is selling the books to fund a Vermont retreat house for activists, artists, and educators.

The singer-songwriter, who died in 2003, was well-known as a bookworm — even playing in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band made up of authors including Stephen King and Amy Tan. Some of the books have inscriptions from their authors to Zevon, and others have items like plane tickets and restaurant receipts tucked into the pages. (Billboard)

The Zevon books are selling at prices into the hundreds of dollars each. If you have a little more cash to drop on a rock souvenir, you can buy Daft Punk’s Roland TR-909 drum machine. The machine, set with the original presets of the dance duo's 1997 song "Revolution 909," is in the hands of a French vintage shop and is being sold to the highest bidder. (Billboard)

Fyre Festival organizer arrested

Billy McFarland, the entrepreneur who organized (or, as the case may be, didn't organize) this spring's disastrous Fyre Festival, was arrested on Friday on a charge of wire fraud partially stemming from the debacle. The festival, which promised big-name performers in a Bahamas setting of unprecedented luxury, failed spectacularly to deliver on those promises and has already sparked several lawsuits against McFarland and co-organizer Ja Rule.

The criminal complaint charges McFarland with "operating a scheme to defraud investors by drastically overstating his wealth and the revenues of Fyre Media, whose main business was a website that allowed people to book celebrities for concerts and parties," reports the New York Times. McFarland was released Saturday on $300,000 bail.

Neil Young releases pointed new video

Last week, Neil Young and Promise of the Real released a surprise new standalone single, "Children of Destiny." A video for the song, which calls for listeners to "resist the powers that be" and "preserve the ways of democracy," features "footage of recent large-scale protests alongside patriotic imagery like children waving American flags and Fourth of July cookouts," notes Rolling Stone.

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