New wave singer behind hits including Good Times Roll and Shake It Up found dead in his New York apartment
Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the 1980s band the Cars, has died at the age of 75.
New York police confirmed to the Washington Post that officers responded to a 911 call on Sunday afternoon. Ocasek was pronounced dead at the scene, with no sign of foul play.
The Cars topped the charts in the late 1970s and 80s, with 13 top-40 singles including Just What I Needed, Shake It Up, Good Times Roll and Drive. The band’s sound helped kick off the new wave movement, and saw them and Ocasek inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
The Cars broke up in 1988, after which Ocasek focused on his solo career. He recorded seven solo albums in total, and produced records for Bad Brains, Guided by Voices and Hole, as well as The Blue Album and the Green Album by Weezer.
Musicians have begun paying tribute to Ocasek on Twitter, with the New Pornographers’ AC Newman saying: “I will never stop imitating the first Cars album. His influence will always stay with me.”
Carl Newman (@ACNewman)
I will never stop imitating the first Cars album. His influence will always stay with me. RIP and Thank You to Ric Ocasek.
Mike Portnoy 🤘 (@MikePortnoy)
In the late 70’s, in between my obsessions for Kiss, the Ramones, The Clash & The Sex Pistols, I also was a big fan of The Pretenders, the B-52’s, the Police, Devo & The Cars…the 1st two albums are classics from start to finish. Sad to hear of Ric Ocasek’s passing #RIPRicOcasek pic.twitter.com/mlIBnVVL80
Ocasek – real name Richard Theodore Otcasek – was born and raised in Baltimore. He started pursuing music after dropping out of college in the 60s, meeting future Cars bassist Benjamin Orr in 1965.
In 1970, Ocasek and Orr relocated to Boston, meeting guitarist Elliot Easton and forming the band Cap’n Swing. That band would later undergo some line-up shifts – including adding keyboardist Greg Hawkes and former Modern Lovers drummer David Robinson – and morph into the Cars.
The first Cars album is literally perfect; there might not be a better debut ever. The rest of the catalog is untouchable.
Ric Ocasek was the architect. Nobody could combine pop hits with straight up weirdness like he could.
What a body of work, what a cool guy. Rest in power.
Billy Idol (@BillyIdol)
The Cars’ debut self-titled album, released in 1978, was a hit, peaking at No 18 on the Billboard charts and selling millions, with the singles Just What I Needed, My Best Friend’s Girl and Good Times Roll also charting. The sound, which fused synthesiser pop tones with punk and experimental rock, broke new ground for rock music.
The Cars released six studio albums between 1978 and their split in 1988, with the height of their commercial success coming with 1984’s Heartbeat City. The video for the lead single from that album, You Might Think, won the band video of the year at the MTV Music Video awards. Drive, the most popular song from that album, also gained the group some notoriety after it was played during the 1985 Live Aid concert as backing to some footage of the Ethiopian famine.
The Cars reunited in 2011 long enough to record another album, Move Like This, but without Orr, who died in 2000.
Ocasek’s solo career, which included both making music and producing it, continued throughout the 90s and 00s, and he worked with a host of high-profile alternative acts. Ocasek’s own work suffered from his reticence to tour, though his albums were favoured by critics.
Ocasek married three times. He met his third wife, the supermodel Paulina Porizkova, in 1984 on the set of the music video for Drive. They were married for 28 years, though Porizkova announced on Instagram last year that the couple had separated, saying that though they were no longer together, “the love we have for one another is so wide and deep it’s practically tangible. That sort of love can never disappear.”
He is survived by Porizkova and his six sons.