John Wetton: 12 June 1949 – 31 January 2017 – A Personal Appreciation

Many who follow prog and rock in general woke to the news that John Wetton, singer and bassist for such bands as King Crimson, UK and Asia, passed away after a long, courageous battle with colon cancer.

I know that many others here will write something far more in-depth and eloquent that I will at this time, but this is a heartbreaker for me.

I cut my teeth on prog in 1981 with Rush’s “Moving Pictures,” and a year later I heard Asia for the first time.  I was immediately taken with how these then-mysterious prog musicians – I hadn’t heard Yes, ELP or Crimson at that point – had managed to pack a ton of playing into a tight song format, and to this day, Asia’s debut album remains one of my four all-time favorite albums.

Of course, while Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer supplied most of the busy playing in Asia, John Wetton anchored the group with his steady bass playing and, of course, that VOICE.

After following Asia for most of the 80’s, a friend and bandmate clued me in to what Wetton had been up to just before Asia, and that was my introduction to UK.  Just a stellar group of musicians who created a pair of fine albums and one exceptional live album, and I listen to their work often.

I’ll admit to not absorbing much of what Wetton did prior to UK, which we all know was Family, Uriah Heep, Crimson, Roxy Music, Eno, and others, but for me, Wetton’s presence in UK and Asia alone formed much of the soundtrack to my youth.

Since the 90’s, I’ve kept only a periphery eye on Wetton’s career as he returned to solo work, worked with Downes in Icon, reunited with Asia and UK, and worked with District 97, but I’ve always appreciated him and his career trajectory.

Like so many, I was saddened by the news that Wetton was being treated for cancer and closely followed him online during his battle.  I so hoped he would be healthy enough to perform at the 2017 Cruise to the Edge…not because I was attending, but it seemed that it was serving as inspiration for him during his recovery, and I was crushed for him when he recently announced that he couldn’t attend.

I spent much of my day going back through various Asia, UK, Crimson and solo tracks, and will no doubt spend more time in the future simultaneously mourning John, sending thoughts to his family, friends and bandmates, and celebrating the man’s “extraordinary life.”

5 thoughts on “John Wetton: 12 June 1949 – 31 January 2017 – A Personal Appreciation

  1. Bill Huber

    Kevin, The best of Wetton was prior to the second “pop” UK album. As Jay above noted, there is nothing quite like Crimson’s Red, and the first, eponymous U.K. album is phenomenal. All of the Wetton King Crimson albums (including the various live albums released on KC’s own label) are fantastic, and although he played a lessor role, he was ubiquitous on some of the best prog albums of the early and mid 70s that you definitely need to check out and learn by heart: Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets & Phil Manzanera – Diamond Head



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