Asia singer John Wetton has died from cancer on January 31, 2017 at the age of 67.
His long and storied career saw him rise to fame in the early ’70s as the singer and bassist in King Crimson and become a star a decade later as the lead singer of Asia. In between, he served as a session and/or touring musician for such high-profile acts as Uriah Heep, Roxy Music and Wishbone Ash.
A few weeks prior to his death, Wetton announced that he was pulling out of Asia’s slot opening up for Journey in March and April to begin a new round of chemotherapy. His spot in the band was taken by Billy Sherwood, who, coincidentally, was recruited to fill in for Yes‘ founding bassist Chris Squire as he underwent leukemia treatment and died shortly thereafter.
Wetton was the frontman and principal songwriter of the supergroup Asia, which proved to be his biggest commercial success. Their eponymous debut album sold eight million copies worldwide and was Billboard magazine’s No. 1 album of 1982. He later formed the duo Icon with Geoff Downes (Yes, The Buggles), and from the 1990s had a successful solo career, releasing a large number of studio and live albums.
Wetton had a long career as an in-demand session bass player, and collaborated with many members of progressive rock bands such as Yes (including Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Geoff Downes, Alan White, Billy Sherwood and Peter Banks), Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry and Genesis’ Steve Hackett.
Wetton released his first solo album, Caught in the Crossfire, in 1980 after the break-up of U.K. Later that same year, he had a brief stint in Wishbone Ash, contributing bass and vocals to their album Number the Brave (1981). In 1981, at the urging of Geffen Records’ John Kalodner, Wetton started working and writing with Steve Howe, who had most recently been in Yes. They went on to form Asia.
In the late 1980s, Wetton’s collaboration with former Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera was released as Wetton/Manzanera (1986), with drums provided by Yes’s Alan White. Also around this time, Wetton began working again with Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer in an attempt to restart Asia without Steve Howe. Some of the material by this incarnation of Asia made its way onto 1990’s Then & Now CD.
In 2006, an official reunion of the original Asia line-up (Wetton, Downes, Howe, and Palmer) finally occurred. The studio album titled Phoenix (2008), the original band’s first since 1983’s Alpha, was released in April 2008 and peaked at No. 73 on the North American Top 200 albums charts. The original line-up released two more studio albums, Omega (2010) and XXX before Howe departed in January 2013. With new guitarist Sam Coulson, Asia released Gravitas in March 2014.
John valued his 11+ years of sobriety and volunteered time in fellowship with other alcoholics to share his experience, strength and hope with them. John is survived by his recently-wed wife Lisa and 18 year old son Dylan, brother Robert and mother Margaret.
The very last studio song of John Wetton’s career was “Till We Meet Again,” the closing track on the most recent Asia album Gravitas and included the profound lyrics “Think the best of me, till we meet again.”