According to Wetton's personal website, health issues forced the musician to drop out of Asia's upcoming tour with Journey. He was also preparing reissues of his solo catalog through his own Primary Purpose label. He is survived by his wife Lisa, son Dylan, brother Robert and mother Peggy.
In a statement, Asia drummer Carl Palmer (also of Emerson, Lake and Palmer), wrote: "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."
Wetton was raised in Bournemouth, England and began playing music at a young age. He learned church music on his family piano and often provided the bass parts while his brother rehearsed songs for services. As a young man, Wetton played in a handful of bands, often with friend Richard Palmer-James, whom he'd continue to work with over the next five decades.
In the early Seventies, Wetton played in several British prog rock outfits including Mogul Thrash, Family and Renaissance. During this time, he was also being recruited by another longtime friend, Robert Fripp, to join the latest incarnation of King Crimson. Wetton finally joined in 1972, serving as singer, bassist and composer during the group's short but legendary 1973 to 1974 run of albums, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red.
After Fripp disbanded King Crimson in 1974, Wetton bounced around the British music scene. His mid-Seventies studio output included two Uriah Heep records, a handful of Bryan Ferry albums and two songs on Brian Eno's seminal Here Come the Warm Jets. He also toured briefly with Roxy Music, appearing on several tracks on their 1976 live album, Viva!.
Eventually, Wetton reunited with King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford and tapped Eddie Jobson (Frank Zappa, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull) and Allan Holdsworth, to form U.K. The group split after two albums, and in 1980, Wetton released his first solo album, Caught in the Crossfire. Not long after, however, Wetton teamed with Carl Palmer, and Yes' Geoff Downes and Steve Howe to form Asia.
The group scored a monster hit with their first single, "Heat of the Moment," and would remain a fixture on radio and MTV throughout the Eighties. Wetton, however, left the group before their 1992 album Aqua, resuming his solo career with 1994's Voice Mail/Battle Lines.
Wetton would eventually reunite with Downes, forming the duo, iCon, which put out a handful of LPs and EPs throughout the 2000s. During this time, however, Wetton's alcoholism came to a head but he fought to get sober by the time Asia fully reunited for a tour in 2006. While Wetton was forced to undergo heart surgery a year later, Asia persevered and released a new album, Phoenix, in 2008.
Asia would continue to tour and record, releasing their most recent LP, Gravitas, in 2014 (without Howe, who left in 2013). A new live album, Symfonia – Live in Bulgaria 2013, is scheduled to arrive February 24th. As for Asia's future, Wetton was replaced by Yes bassist Billy Sherwood after he was forced to drop out of the upcoming Journey tour, and in a post on Facebook, Downes signaled his desire to keep the group going in Wetton's honor.
"Life will not be the same without him," Downes said. "And words are not really enough to describe the loss I feel right now, and the many friends and fans all over the world will also be feeling. It is the end of an era for all of us. But we will soldier on – the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops."
Asia Co-Founder and King Crimson Vet John Wetton Dead at 67
John Wetton, the bassist and singer for Asia, as well as a former member of King Crimson and U.K., has died at the age of 67 after a battle with cancer.
Wetton first came to rock fans’ attention in 1972 when he joined a revamped King Crimson lineup, sticking with the group over a two-year span that included the records Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red. Upon Crimson’s temporary disbandment, he served stints with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep before co-founding U.K. with Yes vet Bill Bruford and embarking on a solo career.
All that early success, however, was just a warm-up for the multi-platinum frenzy that surrounded his next project. With A&R legend John Kalodner acting as musical matchmaker, Wetton joined up with former Yes members Geoff Downes and Steve Howe and ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer drummer Carl Palmer to form Asia — a so-called prog supergroup whose self-titled debut topped the charts in the U.S. on its way to more than four million in sales.
Asia’s quick start presaged a turbulent period for the original lineup, as they struggled to maintain their momentum, temporarily parted ways with Wetton, and ultimately disbanded following 1985’s little-heard Astra LP. A late-’80s reunion ended with Wetton departing to resume his solo career, while Downes soldiered on with a new version of the group that persisted throughout the ’90s and early aughts.
Wetton and Downes reignited their creative partnership after the turn of the century, coming together for a series of duo albums as Icon — activity that presaged the reunion of the original Asia lineup in 2006. After a successful tour, the group resumed recording, putting out a trio of LPs (2008’s Phoenix, 2010’s Omega and 2012’s XXX) before Howe departed and was replaced by new guitarist Sam Coulson prior to the recording of 2014’s Gravitas.
A number of health issues dogged Wetton during recent years, including a struggle with alcoholism that he openly acknowledged and a heart condition that required surgery and the postponement of a 2007 tour. More recently, Wetton went public with his cancer diagnosis, which forced him to pull out of Asia’s scheduled tour dates with Journey so he could undergo chemotherapy.
“I accept the fact that I might not be here tomorrow, but having said that, having come through it you feel great,” Wetton said after his heart surgery. “It gave me a completely new outlook on life, that it could all end tonight while I’m asleep, so let’s make the most of today. Let’s make the most of now.”
“With the passing of my good friend and musical collaborator, John Wetton, the world loses yet another musical giant,” wrote Asia drummer Carl Palmer in a statement. “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.”
“He will be remembered as one of the world’s finest musical talents, and I for one of many was wholly blessed by his influence,” added Downes in a lengthy post. “It was a massive privilege for me to have worked with this genius so closely on our numerous projects together over the years. His bass playing was revolutionary. His voice was from the gods. His compositions — out of this world. His sense of melody and harmony — unreal. He was literally a ‘special one.'”
In the short term, Wetton is scheduled to be replaced for the Journey tour by Yes vet Billy Sherwood; over the long term, Downes has signaled a determination to continue Asia in honor of his longtime partner. “It is the end of an era for all of us,” he wrote. “But we will soldier on — the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops.”
John Wetton of rock group Asia has died at age 67
LONDON — Singer and bassist John Wetton of the rock group Asia has died. He was 67.
A statement from his publicist, Glass Onyon PR, says Wetton died Tuesday from colon cancer. The band's website also confirmed his death.
Wetton was a founding member of Asia, an English progressive rock group formed in 1981 by four members of other progressive rock bands of the 1970s. Wetton came to Asia from the band King Crimson.
The group's debut album, 1982's Asia, remains their top-selling record, best remembered for the hit singles Only Time Will Tell and Heat of the Moment.
Wetton had planned to tour with Asia this year but announced in January that he would be unable to join his bandmates due to chemotherapy treatment. He said at the time he hoped to resume touring later in the year.
In statements on the band's website, Wetton's bandmate paid lavish tribute. Carl Palmer said the world had lost "another musical giant" who had "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," Palmer said.
Geoff Downes said Wetton would be "remembered as one of the world’s finest musical talents" and a genius.
"His bass playing was revolutionary. His voice was from the gods. His compositions – out of this world. His sense of melody and harmony – unreal. He was literally a ‘special one,' " Downes said.
Wetton was a recovered alcoholic who had worked in the past 11 years to help others quit drinking.
He is survived by wife Lisa and son Dylan.