Rocker Ric Ocasek, frontman of The Cars, dead at 75

NEW YORK — Ric Ocasek, The Cars frontman whose deadpan vocal delivery and lanky, sunglassed look defined a rock era with chart-topping hits like “Just What I Needed,” was discovered dead Sunday afternoon in his Manhattan apartment.

The New York Police Department said that officers found the 75-year-old Ocasek at about 4 p.m. after responding to a 911 call. They said there were no signs of foul play.

Ocasek died from hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, the city’s medical examiner said Monday.

Pulmonary emphysema was also a contributing factor in the 75-year-old singer’s death, the medical examiner added.

The death comes a year after The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, followed by an announcement by model Paulina Porizkova on social media that she and Ocasek had separated after 28 years of marriage. The pair first met while filming the music video for “Drive,” another Cars hit.

Ocasek, who sang, played guitar and wrote most of the band’s songs, and Benjamin Orr, who played bass and also sang, were ex-hippie buddies who formed The Cars in Boston in 1976. They were a decade older than many of their modern-rock compatriots but became one of the most essential American bands of the late 1970s and 1980s with their fusion of new wave, 1960s pop and 1970s glam.

Ocasek’s minimalist, half-spoken deadpan vocals set made the band’s sound, and his long, lanky appearance formed their lasting image.

The first three songs on their 1978 self-titled first album were all hit singles and remain widely known classics and oldies radio airplay: “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed.”

They had 10 other singles in the Billboard top 40, and of their six studio albums, four were in Billboard’s top 10.

The band’s commercial peak came with 1984’s “Heartbeat City,” which featured the hit singles “You Might Think” and “Magic,” sung by Ocasek, and the atypical ballad “Drive,” sung by Orr.

They were always an MTV favourite, and the whimsical, partly animated video for “You Might Think” along with the mournful video for “Drive” brought them near-constant airplay on the channel in the mid-1980s.

The band broke up in 1988, but their influence would be deeply felt in the 1990s and beyond. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana covered “My Best Friend’s Girl” at their last live show in 1994, and Ocasek produced albums for younger bands including Weezer, No Doubt and Bad Religion.

The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 after being nominated twice before. During the ceremony, Ocasek paid tribute to Orr, who died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer.

“It’s quite strange to be here without him,” Ocasek said.

In announcing the separation last year, Porizkova said that their family is “a well-built car.” But she says that “as a bicycle, my husband and I no longer pedal in unison.” Ocasek had six sons, two from each of his three marriages.

He grew up in Baltimore, and his family moved to Cleveland when he was a teenager. After graduating high school he had stints at Antioch College and Bowling Green State University in the mid-1960s before dropping out to pursue music.

Ocasek met Orr in 1965 and they formed their own first band called ID Nirvana in 1968. In the 1970s they relocated to Boston and formed bands including the folk-rock Milkwood and also played as an acoustic duo before finding their calling when they created The Cars.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Protests large but peaceful after new charges in Floyd case

MINNEAPOLIS — Demonstrations across the U.S. to condemn racism and police abuses… Continue reading

Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz joins Enbridge board of directors

CALGARY — Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has been appointed… Continue reading

Special payment to former Bombardier CEO raises objections from shareholder group

MONTREAL — A shareholder advisory agency is urging Bombardier Inc. shareholders to… Continue reading

PM joins third pandemic summit amid campaign for Security Council seat

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking part in his third… Continue reading

Solidarity together: Central Albertans protest in Red Deer against racism

There’s no such thing as a little bit of racism. Even one… Continue reading

Part II: Calkins says Canada can’t sustain long-term shutdown

Reopening Alberta now is a ‘difficult balancing question’

Don’t sacrifice our planet for the sake of the economy

“Never waste an opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Machiavelli, the author… Continue reading

Turnbull hopes hockey helmet-sticker fundraiser helps heal home province

Blayre Turnbull knows how it feels to lose a parent at a… Continue reading

Hulking lineman Derek Dennis has experienced racism while playing in Canada

At six foot three and 345 pounds, Derek Dennis is an imposing… Continue reading

CMT special focuses on good news work of everyday heroes

NASHVILLE — Country stars highlighted the heroic work of citizens and communities… Continue reading

‘#Blessed’ doc looks at millennial appeal of C3 Church in Toronto

TORONTO — With a trendy vibe, slick marketing and celebrity members, some… Continue reading

Hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID after exposure to the virus: study

Hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID after exposure to the virus: study

Nunavut RCMP to consider body cameras as tension between police, Inuit grows

Nunavut RCMP to consider body cameras as tension between police, Inuit grows

Most Read