Ric Ocasek, Cars frontman, Dies at 75

Ric Ocasek, the singer-songwriter for the prolific New Wave band The Cars was found dead in his Manhattan townhouse Sunday. The cause of death was listed as heart disease according to the New York City medical examiner’s office.

In an Instagram post from his wife, Paulina Porizkova, the 75-year-old musician was home recovering from surgery when he passed in his sleep. The couple had amicably separated in 2018.

The Cars broke out of Boston in the late-70s. Their debut album went on to sell six million copies behind the strength of the single, “Just What I Needed” and led to nearly a decade of constant radio and MTV play for the band.

They were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame by Brandon Flowers of The Killers in 2018 who said of the band, “They had it all: the looks, the hooks, Beat romance lyrics, killer choruses.” At the ceremony, the remaining members of the band reunited with Scott Shriner of Weezer on bass. Original bassist and founding member, Benjamin Orr, died in 2000.

Richard Theodore Ocasek was born in Baltimore, MD on March 23, 1944, moving to Cleveland, OH with his family at the age of 16. He dropped out of Bowling Green State University to focus on music. It was in Cleveland where Ocasek met Benjamin Orr. They performed in various bands throughout Columbus, OH and Ann Arbor, MI before relocating to Boston, MA in the early 1970s.

Boston is where Ocasek and Orr met up with who would become the Cars lineup: keyboardist Greg Hawkes, guitarist Elliot Easton, and former Modern Lovers drummer David Robinson.

Ocasek became the face of the band, taking on most songwriting duties and singing the majority of their hits. Orr sang lead on the band’s biggest hit, 1984’s “Drive.”

From 1978 until the band dissolved in 1988, The Cars were a force on modern rock radio and the early days of MTV. They had 13 Top 10 singles and four Top 10 albums during their run and their legacy is still being felt today, particularly in the works of Weezer and The Killers.

Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield wrote of the band Monday:

Candy-O was the ultimate Cars album — a concept album about Ric’s favorite topic, which was girls. His songs serenade the kind of girl who’s the “Dangerous Type,” dancing merrily out of the clutches of any boy foolish enough to think he could impress her. Nobody did songs like these as brilliantly as Ocasek — the doomed romance between an awkward twit of a boy and a tough, worldly, risque-mouthed muse.

Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone

Weezer’s Twitter account offered condolences. Ocasek produced the band’s multi-platinum Blue and Green albums.

The Killers expressed their grief as well via Twitter:

Ocasek is survived by his estranged wife, Paulina Porizkova and six sons: Christopher, Adam, Eron, Derek, Jonathan Raven, and Oliver.