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|Born||John Kenneth Wetton
12 June 1949
Willington, Derbyshire, England
|Died||31 January 2017
Bournemouth, Dorset, England
|Cause of death||Colon cancer|
|Occupation||Singer-songwriter, musician, producer|
|Genres||Progressive rock, hard rock, pop rock, jazz fusion|
|Instruments||Vocals, bass guitar, guitar, keyboards|
|Labels||E.G., Atlantic Records, Geffen, Universal Records, Island, Eagle, Avalon, EMI, King Records, Frontiers|
|Associated acts||Mogul Thrash, Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, U.K., Jack-Knife, Wishbone Ash, Asia, Phenomena, Renaissance, Qango, Brian Eno, Ayreon|
|Fender Precision Bass
John Kenneth Wetton (12 June 1949 – 31 January 2017) was an English singer, bassist, and songwriter. He was born in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in Bournemouth. He rose to fame with bands Mogul Thrash, Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep, and Wishbone Ash.
After his period with King Crimson, Wetton formed U.K., and later he 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 (ex-Yes, ex-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 grew up in Bournemouth and was in a number of early bands with Richard Palmer-James, on bass and vocals, including, The Corvettes, The Palmer-James Group (formed with Alec James), Tetrad, and Ginger Man. A key early band was Mogul Thrash; after live work with Renaissance, he joined Family and also did various sessions.
Wetton's first big break came when he joined Wimborne, Dorset, musician Robert Fripp in his new line-up of King Crimson in 1972, allowing Wetton to come to the fore as a lead singer and composer. Palmer-James also worked with the band as a lyricist. Wetton remained with the band until Fripp unexpectedly disbanded it in 1974. Wetton continued to work on various projects, including a tour with Roxy Music and two albums with Uriah Heep. In 1977, after failed attempts to reunite King Crimson and create a new band with Rick Wakeman, Wetton formed U.K. with Bill Bruford, who had also been in King Crimson with him. Wetton brought into U.K. keyboard/violin wizard Eddie Jobson, while Bruford brought in guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Upon Bruford and Holdsworth's departure, American percussionist Terry Bozzio joined, making U.K. a threesome a la Emerson, Lake & Palmer. This version of U.K. released the studio album Danger Money (1979) and toured in support of Jethro Tull.
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 with whom Wetton worked until 1983. In that year, Wetton was fired from Asia at the insistence of Geffen Records, ostensibly because of less-than-expected sales of the Alpha (1983) album. Wetton was brought back to Asia in 1985, with Mandy Meyer replacing Steve Howe, to complete Astra (1985).
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.
The 1990s saw Wetton mostly out of Asia and focusing on a solo career. In 1999, another attempt to reform Asia resulted in Wetton participating in the short-lived progressive rock group Qango with Carl Palmer, John Young, and Dave Kilminster. The group performed several shows in the U.K. and recorded one live album, Live in the Hood, before disbanding when Wetton and Palmer returned to their solo projects.
In the early 2000s, he reunited with Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes for iCon. 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.
- Mogul Thrash (1971)
- Gordon Haskell (1972)
- Family (1971–1972)
- Larry Norman (1972)
- King Crimson (1972–1974)
- Uriah Heep (1975–1976)
- U.K. (1977–1980, 2011–2015)
- Jack-Knife (1979)
- Wishbone Ash (1980)
- John Wetton (1980–2017)
- Asia (1981–1983, 1984–1986, 1989–1991, 2006–2017)
- Qango (1999–2000)
- Icon (Wetton/Downes) (2002, 2005–2009)
Session work and collaborations
Note: Jack-Knife was a project in which John Wetton and W.J. Hutcheson, who were his bandmates in Tetrad, visited Richard Palmer-James at his home in Munich. They recorded as Jack-Knife an album with the German drummer Curt Cress in 10 days called I Wish You Would, performing songs from the early days.
- "My Own Time: The Authorized Biography of John Wetton", by Kim Dancha, 1997
- "Biography". Johnwetton.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
- Eder, Bruce. "King Crimson Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
- Stump, Paul – Unknown Pleasures: A Cultural biography of Roxy Music, Thunder's Mouth Press, New York, 1998, pps. 72, 154
- Kirk Blows. "Uriah Heep Story p.6". www.uriah-heep.com. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- "U.K. Humbled in the U.S.A.", Rolling Stone, Sept. 21, 1978
- "Asia: Continental Drift?", CREEM Magazine, April 1986
- Billboard magazine, April 2008
- "Asia frontman, ex-King Crimson bassist John Wetton dies – NME". NME. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- "John Wetton dies aged 67". Prog. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- Robbins, Josh (31 January 2017). "John Wetton, frontman for Asia and key prog rock figure, dies aged 67".
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