Remembering Ric Ocasek

Christian Coleman

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On September 15, 2019, the lead singer of The Cars, Ric Ocasek, was found dead in his Manhattan townhouse by his wife, Paulina Porizkova. She had discovered him in his bed. “I touched his cheek to rouse him. It was then I realized that during the night he had peacefully passed on,” she stated. Paulina and her children, Jonathan (25) and Oliver (21) had been caring for Ocasek after he underwent surgery. He was reported to have died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Although Ric is gone, his legacy continues.

Before the band The Cars took off, and before hits such as “Just What I Needed” hit the streets, Ocasek was originally in a band called Milkwood, a folk-like group consisting of himself, a friend he met in Cleveland, Ohio named Benjamin Orr, alongside lead guitarist, Jas Goodkind. In 1973, the band released their first album, “How’s the Weather”, which didn’t do too well in sales. Ocasek and Orr stuck together when forming and joining other bands. After  a while the two eventually formed a duo, humbly known as Ocasek and Orr. Because of their name, the two struggled to catch on. However, some songs that the two performed ended up being played by The Cars in the band’s early years.

The Cars officially got their start in the year of 1976, consisting of Ric Ocasek, Ben Orr,  Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson. Their first concert took place in December of the same year, at Pease Air Force Base, in New Hampshire. Ric was the rhythm guitarist and lead songwriter of the band, responsible for writing many of the songs that hit the top charts, such as “Good Times Roll”, “You Might Think”, and “My Best Friend’s Girl”. The band released seven albums, with 1984’s “Heartbeat City” being their best-selling album.

In 2018, the band finally made their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were eligible since 2003, however they were not nominated until 2016. They got inducted under the category of Performers. The band was inducted by the Killers’ Brandon Flowers. “Tonight, they’re all riding together into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” Flowers said. Ocasek sat smiling with his wife as the audience cheered on the band’s achievements. “The Cars were the first band that I truly fell in love with,” Flowers continued, “and you never forget your firsts”. 

The passing of Ric Ocasek has made a large impact on the music community. After the news came out that Ric passed away, many artists who looked up to him mourned his loss. Bands such as Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, The Killers, and singer Billy Idol, commented on his passing. Weezer tweeted, saying, “We will miss him forever, & will forever cherish the precious times we got to work and hang out with him. Rest in Peace & Rock on Ric, we love you.”

The Cars simply would not be The Cars without Ric Ocasek; he was the voice of the band. As soon as the news of his passing took the headlines, many mourned his loss, and the hearts of many were left broken. The sounds that Ocasek had brought to the music world were groundbreaking. “And forty years later, they still sound like a new band,” said Flowers. The Cars will forever remain iconic. Their songs will be played on the radio for future generations to experience, and for older ones to remember and never forget.