John Wetton, bassist and singer for bands such as King Crimson and Asia, died in his sleep on January 31, 2017 after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 67.
The British-born Wetton remains best known for his achievements within the progressive rock circles, notably with his stint in the 1970s in the second incarnation of King Crimson, the adventurously complex yet searing and grooving hard rock ensemble. During Wetton’s tenure, the band produced such classic offerings as Lark’s Tongue in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and especially Red, in which the trio of guitarist Robert Fripp, ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, and the muscular, soaring vocals and heavy yet perfect bottom end of Wetton took the group to untold heights, especially on mesmerizing tracks such as the gripping “One More Red Nightmare” and the haunting magnum opus “Starless.”
That all acted as a prelude to Wetton’s biggest success, however, as the singer, bassist, and main songwriter for the prog rock supergroup Asia, which he co-founded in 1981 with former Yes members Geoff Downes (keyboards) and Steve Howe (guitars), and drummer ELP drummer Carl Palmer. Their 1982 self-titled debut sold in the millions, and yielded their greatest hit “Heat of the Moment.” The song has popped up in other forms of media here and there over the years, but may be best known to younger audiences for playing during a crucial scene in the Steve Carell comedy The 40 Year Old Virgin.
Though Asia was short-lived with Wetton as the frontman after the 80s, the group saw him back in the forefront in 2006, where he remained till his death.
Wetton’s health became an issue in recent times, forcing him to pull out of tours, most notably an upcoming stint with Asia gigging with 80s stalwart band Journey because he was scheduled to start a new medical chemotherapy procedure. The musician has been forthcoming over the years about his health, often giving updates about his cancer treatments and his cancer surgery in 2015. After having open heart surgery a decade ago, he said he “might not be here tomorrow” and it “gave him a completely new outlook on life.” From his posts on social media and his official site, he had planned on returning to Asia later in 2017 for tour dates after his recovery.
Ex-band members Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes both released public statements today on Asia’s official Facebook page, where they waxed poetic, tender, and heartfelt about their lost comrade and friend. John Wetton will be missed in the musical, prog-rock, and especially the bassist community. Downes put it best when he wrote, “It’s the end of an era for all of us,” but stressed that “the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops.” Couldn’t agree with that sentiment more.
Wetton is survived by his wife Lisa and 18-year-old son Dylan, brother Robert, and mother Peggy.
RIP John Wetton
June 12, 1949 – January 31, 2017
We regret to announce that iconic singer, John Wetton, passed away in his sleep this morning.