The Cars' co-founder and frontman Ric Ocasek has died

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Ric Ocasek at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction
Ric Ocasek of The Cars performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Kevin Kane/Getty Images)

Updated: Sept. 19 | Published: Sept. 15

Singer-songwriter and producer Ric Ocasek has died, the New York City Police Department confirmed Sunday. He was 75.

Born in Baltimore in 1944, Ocasek — whose surname at birth was Otcasek — moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family in his late teens. It was in Cleveland that Ocasek befriended his longtime collaborator Benjamin Orr. Following a series of less successful music projects, Ocasek and Orr relocated to Boston, where they connected with Jonathan Richman of the Modern Lovers and began networking with musicians in that city. After another couple of smaller projects, Ocasek and Orr teamed up with Modern Lovers' drummer David Robinson and with lead guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes to form the Cars. Although Ocasek and Orr shared a lot of lead vocalist and songwriting duties, Ocasek would go on to be the band's primary vocalist and songwriter.

Ocasek's song "Just What I Needed" appeared on a 1977 Cars demo that ended up getting radio play and ultimately got the band signed to Elektra Records. In 1978, the Cars released their self-titled debut on Elektra; the album featured such hits as "Just What I Needed," "Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl" and "You're All I've Got Tonight," and it reached No. 18 on the Billboard charts.

Through the rest of the 1970s and well into the 1980s, the Cars continued to release albums, their most successful being 1984's Heartbeat City, which featured the hits "Magic," "You Might Think," "Hello Again" and the Benjamin Orr sung "Drive." Heartbeat City peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and it benefitted from frequent airplay on the then-nascent MTV. The music video for "Magic" garnered significant attention; set at a pool party, the video features Ocasek singing while appearing to walk on the water.

The Cars were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. "The Cars had a string of albums at the turn of the '70s to the '80s that seemed to mix the emerging New Wave and post-punk movements with commercial rock 'n' roll better than anyone," The Current's program director, Jim McGuinn, said at the time.

Beyond the Cars, Ocasek had a solo career and also went on to build a career as a respected and successful producer, working with such bands as Guided By Voices, Weezer, No Doubt, Nada Surf and Motion City Soundtrack. "It was no wonder Ocasek went on to a later career as producer of bands like Weezer," McGuinn said. "Ocasek's tightly constructed songs and the band's sparked sound laid the groundwork for what we'd come to call 'alternative music' in the '90s."

Ocasek was preceded in death by his bandmate Orr, who died of cancer in 2000. "Silver," a song that appears on Ocasek's 2005 solo album, Nexterday, was dedicated to Orr.

Correction (Sept. 17, 2019): An earlier version of this story, published as it was developing, listed Ocasek's birth year as either 1944 or 1949, and stated his age as "in his 70s"; Ocasek's birthdate has since been confirmed as March 23, 1944, making him 75 years old.
Correction (Sept. 19, 2019): Benjamin Orr, the singer of the Cars' song "Drive," was originally noted as the songwriter as well. "Drive" was written by Ocasek but sung by Orr.

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External Link

The Cars - official site

2 Photos

  • The Cars
    The Cars press photo, circa 1984; left to right: Ric Ocasek; Elliot Easton; David Robinson; Greg Hawkes; Benjamin Orr (file photo)
  • Ric Ocasek of the Cars performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    Ric Ocasek of the Cars performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 2018. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)