BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Asia co-founder and lead singer John Wetton died Tuesday morning after losing his battle to colon cancer. He was 67.
Wetton first grew to fame in the early 1970’s when he became part of rock groups King Crimson, Roxy Music and Uriah Heep before forming Asia.
A true super group of the 1980s, Asia boasted a lineup that included Steve Howe (Yes), Geoff Downes (The Buggles), Carl Palmer (ELP) and Wetton. The band’s self-titled debut album sold eight million copies worldwide and was Billboard’s No. 1 album of 1982. Wetton also 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 and Bryan Ferry, and Genesis (Steve Hackett).
Vinny Cecolini, a renowned rock music journalist, was VH1 Classic’s Senior Writer at the time he met and interviewed Wetton. Cecolini has had the opportunity to meet and interview a variety of music legends, including Ringo Starr of the Beatles, Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, and Meat Loaf, to name a few. Cecolini said that the entire staff, however, was extremely excited to meet the recently united Asia.
“Despite not having the same name recognition as his band mates,” Cecolini remembered, “John Wetton certainly possessed a much more impressive resume, having spent time with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep, among many others. And if his face was not instantly recognizable, his voice certainly was.”
As the VH1 Classic staff watched Asia’s short, in-studio performance, Cecolini said they were all captivated.
“We were taken back to the early ’80s, we felt like kids again,” he said. “Yes, the years had added gray hair and wrinkles to each member’s face, but they were flawless. They sounded like the records I had worn out after repeated turns on my record player.”
Afterwards, while the band posed for photos with the staff, Cecolini’s then-boss called him aside.
“‘I know you haven’t prepared,” Cecolini recalled his boss asking, “but would you mind interviewing John Wetton?’ I laughed. It was a dream chance to chat one-on-one with a music legend and I was asked if it would be okay!”
As the crew scrambled to set up cameras and screens for the interview, Wetton and Cecolini exchanged small talk. Cecolini said that the interviewer within him was torn: he wanted to ask Wetton everything, but Cecolini also wanted to wait until the cameras rolled.
“John Wetton was easily one of the nicest, friendliest, most generous musical icons I have ever met,” Cecolini sincerely said. “During the in-studio studio rehearsal and performance, while Steve Howe constantly complained about this or that, Wetton had a smile that could not be erased. He was just enjoying himself too much. Perhaps, it was the reunion. More than likely, it was just John. The smile remained as we chatted on camera. Even when he was called away to the next media engagement, he was appreciative.”
Cecolini said that although he was aware of Wetton’s battle with cancer, he was still heartbroken by the news of Wetton’s passing.
“I’m happy with all of the media attention his passing received,” Cecolini said. “I am still saddened that another musical hero has departed us all. I hope the bassist/vocalist is already jamming with Bowie, Lemmy, Prince and so many others…where it truly has become Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven.”
Wetton is survived by his wife Lisa; son, Dylan; his brother, Robert; and mother, Peggy. Funeral arrangements were not known at this time.
(READERS CAN VIEW VINNY CECOLINI’S INTERVIEW WITH JOHN WETTON BELOW.)