By Christopher Scapelliti
John Wetton, bassist and frontman for Asia and the Seventies-era incarnation of King Crimson, died on January 31 after battling cancer. He was 67.
His death was announced on Asia’s Facebook page.
As a member of King Crimson from 1973 to 1974, Wetton performed on three of the group’s acclaimed Seventies efforts: 1973’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and 1974’s Starless and Bible Black and Red. During that decade he also performed and recorded with Roxy Music and its frontman, Brian Ferry, as well as with Uriah Heep, and made contributions to solo albums by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and former Roxy synthesist Brian Eno.
Following his stint with Roxy, Wetton formed the British prog-rock group UK, which featured his former King Crimson bandmate drummer Bill Bruford and guitarist Allan Holdsworth.
But his greatest success came in the Eighties with the supergroup Asia, which included guitarist Steve Howe of Yes, keyboardist Geoff Downes of Yes and the Buggles, and drummer Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Their self-titled 1982 debut album was a best-seller that reach Number One in many countries, thanks in great part to its hit, “Heat of the Moment.”
Carl Palmer, who with Greg Lake’s death on December 7, 2016 is now the sole surviving member of ELP, offered a tribute to Wetton. “With the passing of my good friend and musical collaborator, John Wetton, the world loses yet another musical giant,” Palmer writes. “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.”
Current King Crimson vocalist/guitarist Jakko Jakszyk write, “Truly saddened to hear of the passing of John Wetton. It goes without saying that he was and is a huge influence but, I’m honoured say, someone I could also call a pal. He was great company and a gentle soul. I shall treasure our chats, the amount he made me laugh at the Steve Hackett shows we did together and the afternoon we spent last August, where he insisted on this selfie. RIP John.”