John Wetton, singer/bassist and veteran of multiple famed prog-rock outfits, died today (Jan. 31) in his sleep, with the cause of death being widely reported as colon cancer. He was 67.
The death was confirmed on social media this morning by a number of Wetton’s former bandmates, including his Asia bandmate Geoffrey Downes, who tweeted, “I am sorry to be the bearer of the very sad news that my dearest friend, bandmate and co-writer, John Wetton has passed away.”
Dear All, I am sorry to be the bearer of the very sad news that my dearest friend, bandmate and co-writer, John Wetton has passed away.
— Geoffrey Downes (@asiageoff) January 31, 2017
One of the most technically proficient and in-demand rock instrumentalists of the ’70s and ’80s, Wetton worked with a number of bands in his early career before coming to national prominence as the new singer and bassist for prog-rock legends King Crimson in 1972. After that group was disbanded a couple years later, Wetton spent time with the similarly renowned art-rock outfits Roxy Music and Uriah Heep, and formed the group U.K. with Crimson drummer Bill Bruford.
In the ’80s, Wetton briefly launched a solo career before joining his most commercially successful outfit: Asia, a supergroup also featuring members of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The group’s self-titled debut album was a smash, topping the Billboard 200 Albums chart for nine weeks and spawning Hot 100 top 20 hits with “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell.” He was fired from the group after underwhelming sales for 1983’s follow-up Alpha but rehired a few years later, bouncing in and out of the lineup before permanently rejoining in the late ’00s.
Carl Palmer, who also worked with Wetton in Asia, released a statement about his late bandmate this morning, calling him a “musical giant” that was “both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of ASIA to the top of the charts around the world.” Read the whole statement below:
With the passing of my good friend and musical collaborator, John Wetton, the world loses yet another musical giant. John was a gentle person who created some of the most lasting melodies and lyrics in modern popular music. As a musician, he was both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of ASIA to the top of the charts around the world. His ability to triumph over alcohol abuse made him an inspiration to many who have also fought that battle. For those of us who knew him and worked with him, his valiant struggle against cancer was a further inspiration. I will miss his talent, his sense of humor and his infectious smile. May you ride easy, my old friend.