Born the son of a medical doctor, he was educated at Highgate School until 1964 and proceeded to study at the Royal Academy of Music, winning all the relevant major prizes. He then won a Nettleship music scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford.
In 1987, Blakely accompanied tenor Neil Mackie in the world premiere of Kenneth Leighton's song cycle Earth, Sweet Earth. He has recorded seven CDs, including Beethoven's Spring Sonata with Lorraine McAslan, which was declared 'first choice' of all available versions by BBC Radio 3's CD Review. His many pupils have included Alisdair Hogarth who said that "John was brilliant and was a master of helping you completely get your head around an issue in a piece by summing it up in one sentence".
- Royal College of Music
- Hughes, Patrick (Ed.). Highgate School Register 1833-1988 (7th ed.). p. 331.
- Music and Musicians International - Volume 36, Issue 4 - Page 34 1987 "On July 6th, also at the Pump Room, Neil Mackie (tenor) with John Blakely (piano) gave the World premier of Kenneth Leighton's naive and rather old-fashioned song cycle 'Earth. Sweet Earth"."
- Wilson, Frances. "Meet the artist...Alisdair Hogarth". Retrieved 21 September 2015.
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