John Wetton, the English singer, bassist and founding member of Asia, has died from colon cancer. He was 67.
His death comes three weeks after he announced that he would sit out the band's winter tour with Journey in order to undergo more chemotherapy. But he vowed to be back on stage this year. In the spring of 2015, Wetton had a 2.2-pound cancerous growth removed from his abdomen.
Wetton picked up the bass as a child in order to help his brother rehearse tunes for church services. He first gained notoriety as a member of King Crimson. He then played with Uriah Heep and Roxy Music before forming U.K. with Crimson drummer Bill Bruford, Roxy violinist Eddie Jobson and Allan Holdsworth. He launched a solo career before hooking up with Geoff Downes, Steve Howe and Carl Palmer to form Asia in 1981. The band's self-titled debut album spent nine weeks at number-one on the Billboard chart with sales of over 10-million copies on the strength of the songs "Only Time Will Tell," "Heat of the Moment" and "Sole Survivor."
Asia sputtered out in the early '90s. Wetton worked with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and reformed Asia with Downes in 2005. Wetton underwent emergency heart surgery, but recovered quickly to rejoin the band. Asia has been together since, and in between Wetton also worked on more solo projects as well as a U.K. reunion.
Wetton is the second member of King Crimson to die of cancer in the last two months: the disease took Greg Lake in December. Ironically, his replacement in Asia is Yes bassist Billy Sherwood, who replaced bassist Chris Squire after his death from cancer in 2015.
Carl Palmer says, "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."
Geoff Downes of Asia posted, "John was much more than a gigantic and unique musical talent. He was a supremely intelligent man, marked with his great observations and wisdom about life; all couched within his wicked sense of humor. The wit was dark and deep, only fully perceptible to those on his same wavelength. I was fortunate enough to be able to be on that wavelength, and discover that we had much in common. Many of his personal life experiences were reflected in his lyrical contributions to the songs. His heart was always in the music. That was John, through and through. It was always about the music."