It is no exaggeration to state that many music artists who have jumped onto the new audiovisual platform provided by MTV/Music Television during its initial years in the 1980s were elevated into, if not outright legends, then musical household words for fans. One such group that has gotten good mileage out of having their songs presented as music videos on early MTV was the American new wave rock band The Cars, which emerged from the late 70s as part of the generation that blended rock and synthesizer pop. Also a big factor in their popularity was the vocals of front-man Ric Ocasek, who died Sunday.
Variety has it that The Cars’ rhythm guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Ric Ocasek has passed away on the afternoon of September 15 in New York. Police were called to a city townhouse at East 19th Street in Manhattan, around 4 PM EST, to check on an unresponsive male patient, later identified as Ocasek. Preliminary examination pronounced that he had died on the scene, though the cause of his death was not yet determined. The Cars’ former front-man had been 75 years old. His passing came only a year after his divorce from his third wife.
Born Richard Theodore Otcasek in 1944, Ric formed The Cars in Boston on 1976 with Elliot Easton on lead guitar, Benjamin Orr on bass and secondary vocals, David Robinson on drum and Greg Hawkes on keyboards. They first enjoyed radio play popularity with songs like “Just What I Needed” and “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Then MTV launched, which The Cars joined in on with “Double Life” being the 21st music video that premiered there. By 1984 their song “You Might Think” was the first winner of Video of the Year in the inaugural MTV VMA’s. The band also performed in the US portion (Philadelphia) of the Live Aid 1985 concert.
At times when the members pursued solo projects, Ric Ocasek also wrote and produced songs for other artists, and his influence in this regard was such that his songs for The Cars were performed in a medley during the final concert of rock band Nirvana. Following the 1988 breakup of The Cars, Orr died of cancer in 2000 while Hawkes and Easton formed a spinoff group called The New Cars in 2005. The surviving members briefly reunited in 2010 to produce their last album “Move Like This” in 2011. Following that, the final time The Cars would perform together was during their 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
In personal life, Ocasek married three times, the third time notably to supermodel Paulina Porizkova in 1989, after they met during production of the music video for “Drive” in 1984. They divorced in 2018. Ocasek is survived by six sons.
Image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter