Remembering The Cars- Rick Ocasek (1944-2019)

Just a few days after the passing of Eddie Money, the Rock world lost Ric Ocasek of the Cars. He was found dead at his E. 19th St. New York, Gramercy Park Town house by his ex wife supermodel, Paulina Porizkova. It appears he died of natural causes. Ocasek will be remembered for his rock star image of a very eccentric, tall, skinny, jet black hair & his trademark sunglasses.

Richard Theodore Ocasek was born March 23rd, 1944 in Baltimore, Maryland. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, becoming influenced by Buddy Holly at age 13. He would eventually quit college to peruse a music career.

In 1965 he met Benjamin Orr, the two would become life long friends & share a 23 year musical relationship. By the early seventies they relocated to Boston, playing as an acoustic duo.
They met up with Greg Hawkes & worked with him, although he would be the last member to join the Cars. Hawkes was vital to the Cars sound, with his use of synthesizers & keyboards, becoming known to push the limits of the instruments technology. Ocasek & Orr then recruited Eliot Easton (guitarist) & David Robinson (drums) & the rest is history. 

Their band became known as the Cars.The name was perfect, it was simple, meant nothing, was not related to any era or style of music. Ocasek liked the idea that alphabetically "C" would be up in the front of record store bins. Ocasek became the main song writer for the Cars, writing almost all the bands material. He played mostly rhythm guitar & shared the lead vocals with Benjamin Orr.

In Boston, he became friends with DJ Maxanne Sartori. She began playing the Cars demos of "My Best Friends Girl" & "Just What I Needed". The response was huge & led to the band signing with Electra Records. They were sent to England to record with Queen producer, Roy Thomas Baker in (Beatles) George Martin's AIR Studios.

The Cars debut album was released in June 1978, and was one of the biggest things on the radio that summer. It peaked on the charts at #18 & remained charted for over two 1/2 years.

Just about every song from the first Cars album was a hit on rock radio. "Just What I Needed" (#27) "My Best Friends Girl" (#35) & "Good Times Roll" (#41) all made the Top Forty charts. "You're All I've Got Tonight", "Bye Bye Love" & "Moving In Stereo" all got big airplay.

Of course, that song would be forever immortalized as it was featured in the movie, "Fast Times At Ridgemont High, where Judge Reinhold fantasizes about Phoebe Cates in the famous swimming pool slow motion scene. (here's the clean TV version):

The Cars were one of the biggest groups during the New Wave music scene of the late seventies / early eighties. New Wave's biggest bands included, The Police, Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Talking Heads, the Knack & others. The Cars have sold over 23 million records, had 13 top forty hits & five top ten albums.

The Cars second album, "Candy-O" made it to #3 on the billboard chars. The songs "Let's Go" (#14) & "It's All I Can Do" (#41) both made the charts, with "Dangerous Type", "Candy-O" & "Double Life" all getting radio airplay.

Trivia: The album cover featured a girl spread out on a Ferrari, designed by Playboy & Esquire artist, Alberto Vargas. Vargas famous for his drawings of pin up  girls from the 1940's- 1960's. He was 80 years old & retired at the time, but took the job anyway. The model who posed for Vargas, was Candy Moore, famous for playing Lucile Ball's daughter on the Lucy Show. She briefly dated Cars drummer, David Robinson.

In 1980 the Cars released "Panorama" (#5) & in 1981 "Shake It Up" (#9) which was more commercial with the hits  "Shake It Up" (#4) & "Since Your Gone" (#24).

In 1982, Ocasek did his first solo album, many of the tracks had him playing all the instruments. In 1984 the Cars regrouped with legendary producer, Jeff 'Mutt" Lange , (Def Leppard, Foreigner,  AC/DC, Lady Ga Ga, Nickelback, Boomtown Rats, Britney Spears & his one time wife Shania Twain). They released "Heartbeat City" (#3)

The album had big hits with "You Might Think" (#7), "Magic" (#12) "Why Cant I Have You" (#33)& the classic "Drive" (#3). 

It was during the filming of the music video "Drive" that Ocasek met 18 year old model/actress Paulina Porizkova,. At the time he was still married to his second wife Suzanne, who he wed in 1971. The two were soon divorced & Ocasek married Porizkova in 1989.

They remained together until 2017, separating amicably. They lived in a $13 million town house in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan on E. 19th St.

The Cars were also successful on MTV in the music videos era. In 1985 they would play at Live Aid, in the USA at Philadelphia. A fine performance that this writer attended!

Ocasek released another solo album in 1986, "This Side of Paradise" which featured the hit single "Emotion In Motion". The Cars regrouped in 1987 & released what was to be their last album, "Door to Door" which was not too successful, in the now changed music scene. 

In 1988 the band chose to break up & Ocasek & Orr soon lost touch. The rumors of a reunion in the nineties never happened. Sadly, Benjamin Orr died in 2000 from pancreatic cancer, he was just 53.

Ocasek did release seven solo albums in his career, made cameo appearances in the late eighties films, "Hairspray" & "Made In Heaven". He also wrote a book of poetry in 1993 & always had a hobby of making photo collages, drawings & mixed media art. 

During his time with the Cars, he also became
a reputable producer & would go on to produce many younger bands albums (Weezer, No Doubt, Bebe Buell, Black 47, Romeo Void, Bad Religion, the Cribs Nada Surf & more).

In 1998 he did a short solo tour but he did not like to tour any longer. That same year Hawkes & Easton did a Cars mini reunion which Ocasek did not participate in.

 In 2010 he did participate in a Cars reunion with a new album & a ten city tour. No further projects ever came to life. In 2016 Ocasek oversaw a remastering of the groups music.

Rick Ocasek was married three times & had six sons., two with each wife. He was 75 years old. Rock on Rick!!


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