R.I.P. John Wetton

NPR reports that Asia frontman John Wetton has died. Wetton, a longtime fixture in UK rock circles, played in a great many bands — King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash — before forming Asia. He had been suffering from cancer, and he died in his sleep this morning. Wetton was 67.

Wetton grew up in the British city of Bournemouth, where, as a young man, he formed a number of bands, including Mogul Thrash, with his friend Richard Palmer-James. Around 1970, he became the bassist of the prog band Family, and in 1972, Robert Fripp recruited him to join King Crimson, also on bass. (Palmer-James also became King Crimson’s lyricist at the same time.) He remained with the band until its 1974 breakup. After that, he toured with Roxy Music and recorded two albums with Uriah Heep. He also formed a short-lived prog-rock supergroup called U.K. and recorded one album with Wishbone Ash.

In 1981, Wetton teamed up with former Yes member Steve Howe and formed Asia, a band that also featured former Yes member Geoff Downes and Emerson, Lake And Palmer’s Carl Palmer. But while all the members of the band may have been prog mainstays, their sound was a sort of grand and sweeping commercial rock. Their self-titled 1982 debut sold 10 million copes and was that year’s highest seller. Their song “Heat Of The Moment” was a massive early-MTV hit. But in 1983, after a less-successful follow-up, Geffen Records demanded that the band fire Wetton.

Wetton went on to rejoin Asia sporadically over the years, and he also released solo music and formed the bands Qango and Icon. He also played on records from people like Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno.

Below, watch some of Wetton’s videos.