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John Wetton, singer/bassist and veteran of multiple famed prog-rock outfits, died today (Jan. 31) in his sleep, with the cause of death being widely reported as colon cancer. He was 67.

The death was confirmed on social media this morning by a number of Wetton's former bandmates, including his Asia bandmate Geoffrey Downes, who tweeted, "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."

One of the most technically proficient and in-demand rock instrumentalists of the '70s and '80s, Wetton worked with a number of bands in his early career before coming to national prominence as the new singer and bassist for prog-rock legends King Crimson in 1972. After that group was disbanded a couple years later, Wetton spent time with the similarly renowned art-rock outfits Roxy Music and Uriah Heep, and formed the group U.K. with Crimson drummer Bill Bruford.

In the '80s, Wetton briefly launched a solo career before joining his most commercially successful outfit: Asia, a supergroup also featuring members of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The group's self-titled debut album was a smash, topping the Billboard 200 Albums chart for nine weeks and spawning Hot 100 top 20 hits with "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell." He was fired from the group after underwhelming sales for 1983's follow-up Alpha but rehired a few years later, bouncing in and out of the lineup before permanently rejoining in the late '00s.

Carl Palmer, who also worked with Wetton in Asia, released a statement about his late bandmate this morning, calling him a "musical giant" that was "both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of ASIA to the top of the charts around the world."

Catch the pearl and ride the dragon's wings. RIP John.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My first "Prog" album was the Asia debut (Prog Lite, granted, but it was the gateway drug) and soon after I became a huge King Crimson fan, especially Mark III. For me, John was one of the Three Kings of Prog Bass (along with Chris Squire and Tony Levin). I knew he was sick for a while, so this is not a complete surprise, but still very sad news to lose such a great musician.

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