Today marks the third anniversary of Prince’s death. The music royal was himself an amazing drummer, who played or programmed the beats on many of his songs. And in live performances, he always chose the most phenomenal drummers to provide the backbone to his music.

Below we celebrate some of Prince’s stellar sticksmen and stickswomen as a way to honor his legacy and theirs.

Robert Rivkin, aka Bobby Z

The drummer in Prince’s band The Revolution, Bobby Z backed him from 1979-86, on classics including Purple Rain, Around The World In A DayParade, and Sign O’ The Times. The video below comes from the title track of the rock opera Purple Rain.

Sheila E.

Possibly the best known of Prince’s drummers, and a successful solo artist in her own right, Sheila E. served as as Prince’s percussionist and musical director during tours from 1987-89. Prince also produced three of her solo albums in the ’80s.

Here she is supplementing the electronic beats with percussion on “U Got The Look.”

Michael Bland

Still a teenager when he joined The New Power Generation in 1989, Michael Bland played with Prince for seven years, including on Diamond And Pearls. And he teamed up with Prince years later to drum the title track of the album 3121.

John Blackwell, Jr.

The funktastic Blackwell joined The New Power Generation in 2000, and played with Prince on and off for 12 years, including on his 2003 Live At The Aladdin Las Vegas DVD, and the 2003 instrumental album, N.E.W.S, which was nominated for a Grammy. He died in 2017 of a brain tumor.

Here’s Blackwell tearing it up on “The Everlasting Now,” with Sheila E. on percussion. Dig that leftie stick work around the 2:50 mark).

Hannah Welton-Ford

Part of Prince’s all-female backing band, 3rdEyeGirl, Welton-Ford was 22 when Prince discovered her YouTube videos and asked her to play with him in 2012. Welton-Ford also held down drum and vocal duties on the band’s debut album release Plectrumelectrum.

She played with 3rdEyeGirl until Prince’s death in 2016.

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