Ric Ocasek dead at 75; The Cars singer was a pioneer of rock’s New Wave movement

September 15, 2019

by John Larson

Ric Ocasek
Ric Ocasek of the Cars at the 33rd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium in Cleveland on April 14, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Ric Ocasek, who was best known as the lead singer of The Cars, was found dead in his New York City apartment on September 15, 2019. He was 75. The cause of death has not yet been made public, and a medical examination will be conducted, according to the Associated Press.*

Ocasek was considered one of the pioneers of rock music’s New Wave movement that began in the late 1970s as a more melodic, synthesizer-heavy offshoot of punk music. Hailing from Boston, The Cars became an instant success with their self-titled 1978 debut album. Their hits included “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “Shake It Up,” “You Might Think,” “Drive” and “Hello Again.”

The Cars’ 1984 “You Might Think” video also holds the distinction of being the first to win Best Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Ironically, the band’s biggest hit, “Drive” (which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984) , was not sung by Ocasek but by Cars bass player Benjamin Orr, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.

The Cars disbanded in 1988, and Ocasek went on to have a solo career. He also produced albums for bands such as Weezer, Black 47, Bad Religion, Guded by Voices, Nada Surf, Bad Brains, Possum Dixon and LeTigre. The surviving members of the Cars temporarily reunited with Ocasek to record the 2011 album “Move Like This,” and they toured in support of the record. The album and the tour got mixed reviews. The Cars were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. The band had its final reunion and performance with Ocasek at the ceremony.

Ocasek  is survived by six sons, two from each of his three marriages. His third marriage to former supermodel Paulina Porizkova was on the rocks at the time of his death. The ex-couple, who married in 1989, had been separated for about a year before making their separation public in 2018. Ocasek and Prozikova met on the set of the Cars’ “Drive” video, which co-starred Porizkova as a mentally disturbed woman.

*September 16, 2109 UPDATE: The Associated Press has reported that Ocasek died from heart disease, and he died in his sleep. He was also suffering from emphysema.