Rock icon John Wetton passed away this morning (31st January) at the age of 67. He had been courageously battling colon cancer.
Breaking the sad news first on Twitter, John’s Asia bandmate Geoff Downes wrote: “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.”
Moments later, the official Asia account tweeted: “We regret to announce that iconic singer, John Wetton, passed away in his sleep this morning. Rest in Peace, John. 12/06/1949 – 31/01/2017”
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
We regret to announce that iconic singer, John Wetton, passed away in his sleep this morning.— Original Asia (@originalasia) January 31, 2017
Rest in Peace, John.
12/06/1949 – 31/01/2017
Earlier this month John dropped out of Asia’s co-headline North American tour with Journey this March and April as he was undergoing chemotherapy.
He explained to fans at the time: “I will soon be starting a new medical chemotherapy procedure, under which I will not be able to fly.
“While I am naturally disappointed to miss the beginning of what I know will be an historic Asia tour, I am intending to return to the stage with Asia later in 2017. I know this decision will be in the best interests of my health and our fans in the long run.”
Paying tribute to his friend and musical kindred spirit, Carl Palmer said in an official statement: “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 humour and his infectious smile. May you ride easy, my old friend.”
In a lengthy and immensely heartfelt post, Geoff Downes heralded his friend as “a gigantic and unique musical talent” and a “fiercely loyal, loving and generous” person.
Vowing to continue Asia in John’s memory, Geoff added: “Life will not be the same without him. 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.”
© PA Images
A truly prolific musician, after playing in various bands throughout the sixties John joined the progressive rock act Mogul Thrash featuring Colosseum’s James Litherland in 1971.
They released one self-titled album that summer and John went on to work with Family and Renaissance in the early seventies.
John’s big break came in 1972 when he joined Robert Fripp’s King Crimson as lead singer and composer in a line-up that also featured Bill Bruford. He released three critically-lauded albums with King Crimson – 1973’s ‘Larks' Tongues in Aspic’, and 1974’s ‘Starless and Bible Black’ & ‘Red’.
When Fripp shock disbanded King Crimson, he performed live with Roxy Music (appearing on their live album ‘Viva!’) and joined Uriah Heep from 1975 to 1976 playing on both ‘Return to Fantasy’ and ‘High and Mighty’.
John formed progressive rock supergroup U.K. in 1977 alongside Allan Holdsworth, Bill Bruford and Eddie Jobson, and they released an eponymous record in 1978 and ‘Danger Money’ the following year.
Releasing the solo album ‘Caught in the Crossfire’ at the turn of the eighties and enjoying a one-year tenure with Wishbone Ash, in 1981 John joined supergroup Asia alongside Yes’s Steve Howe, ELP’s Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes of Yes and Buggles.
Their self-titled 1982 debut was a phenomenal success entering the US charts at number one, however, after follow-up ‘Alpha’ failed to match its success John exited the band in acrimonious circumstances – he claimed he was fired, however the band claimed he quit.
He enjoyed three further triumphant spells with Asia until his untimely death today and was pivotal in the band’s significant success across the globe.
Other ventures included the late eighties collaboration with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, Wetton/Manzanera, the short-lived Qango at the turn of the millennium and lending his vocals to a song on Renaissance’s 2013 album ‘Grandine il vento.’
John is survived by his recently wed wife Lisa and 18 year old son Dylan, brother Robert and mother Peggy.
The very last studio song of John Wetton’s career was the closing track on the most recent and indeed final ASIA album “Gravitas” and included the profound lyrics “Think the best of me, till we meet again.”