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John Wetton, Asia Frontman, Dies at 67

Variety logo Variety 1/31/2017 Dani Levy
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English rock bassist John Wetton, who served as frontman for King Crimson and supergroup Asia, died on Tuesday, according to Wetton’s website and a tweet from Asia. The progressive-rock musician had been battling colon cancer.

Bandmate Geoff Downes made a public statement on the band’s Facebook page, saying Wetton “will be remembered as one of the world’s finest musical talents, and I for one of many was wholly blessed by his influence. It was a massive privilege for me to have worked with this genius so closely on our numerous projects together over the years.”

Wetton’s long list of musical credits include a rise to fame with Mogul Thrash, Family, and King Crimson followed by stints with Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, and Wishbone Ash. Alongside Steve Howe, Wetton formed the group Asia, for which he served as the frontman and lead songwriter.

“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 wrote in the Facebook post.

Asia went on to release a chart-topping self-titled album, the biggest selling album in the world in 1982. Wetton wrote hits like “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell,” the former holding at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.

Wetton joined and departed Asia several times throughout the last few decades, leaving in 1983 only to rejoin in the following few years. He came back again in 2006, after which the band released four albums: Phoenix, Omega, XXX, and Gravitas.

Wetton also had a successful solo career both before and after rejoining Asia in 2006, with albums “Caught in the Crossfire” (1980) and his final solo release “Raised in Captivity” (2011).

Aside from the cancer, Wetton struggled with alcoholism and heart problems, the latter of which requiring open heart surgery.

“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,” frequent collaborator Downes wrote. “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.”

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