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

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer discovered dead Sunday afternoon in Manhattan apartment

In this April 14, 2018, file photo, Ric Ocasek, from the Cars, performs during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in Cleveland. Ocasek, famed frontman for The Cars rock band, has been found dead in a New York City apartment. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

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 and that the medical examiner was to determine a cause of death.

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.

Tom Hays And Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press

READ MORE: Eddie Money, ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’ singer, dies at 70

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Tofino and Ucluelet’s Top 10 sports and arts stories of 2019

Revisiting the Coast’s best sports and arts newsmakers of the past year.

Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling.

Tofino’s first cannabis dispensary opens

“I don’t know where it’s going, but happy how it’s gone so far.”

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada said the deal is exactly what Harry and Meghan asked for

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

Blue Monday is a myth but seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues are real

Canadian Mental Health Association says weather can affect mood

Most Read