Ric Ocasek, Cars Co-Founder, Found Dead in NYC

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Inductee Ric Ocasek of The Cars performs at the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; used with permission)

The co-founder and most familiar member of the popular new wave band, The Cars, Ric Ocasek, was found dead Sept. 15 in his New York apartment.

Ocasek was 75. [Some reports have his date of birth as March 23, 1949, which would have him at 70 when he died. Research by the New York Times confirmed that he was born in 1944.]

According to police reports, a call was received on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 15) regarding an unresponsive adult male; they later confirmed that the deceased was Ocasek.

Ocasek died from heart disease, according to the New York City medical examiner’s office. Specifically, the cause of death was hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease with pulmonary emphysema as a contributing factor.

Related: Ocasek’s family issued a statement one day after his death

The Cars, whose ’70s and ’80s hits included “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Good Times Roll,” “Let’s Go,” “You Might Think,” “Shake it Up,” “Magic,” “Drive” and “Tonight She Comes,” were formed in Boston in 1976 by rhythm guitarist/vocalist Ocasek, bassist/vocalist Ben Orr (who passed away in 2000), lead guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson.

The Cars 1978 debut album

In 1977 the quintet recorded a handful of demos that led to their signing with Elektra Records. Paired with producer Roy Thomas Baker, the group recorded their self-titled debut album in London in early 1978, with “Just What I Needed,” written by Ocasek and sung by Orr, chosen as the first single, reaching #27. Two other songs from that self-titled debut album followed, “My Best Friend’s Girl” (#35) and “Good Times Roll” (#41), both sung by Ocasek. While the album peaked at only #18 on the U.S. Album Chart, it ultimately sold six million copies.

Related: Rockers pay tribute to Ocasek

Their follow-up, Candy-O, released the next year and again produced by Baker, delivered their biggest hit to date, “Let’s Go” (#14). The song, written by Ocasek, was sung by Orr. Candy-O reached #3 and has sold four million copies.

Between 1979-85, the Cars released four straight top 10 albums and four top 10 singles, the biggest being the ballad “Drive,” in ’84. The group was a fixture on early MTV but broke up in 1988.

Richard Theodore Otcasek was born on March 23, 1944, in Baltimore, Maryland. (See above regarding the discrepancy in his reported birth date.) He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family when he was a teenager, and met his future bandmate, Orr, in 1965. The pair formed their first band together, ID Nirvana, in 1968, and ultimately moved to Boston in the early ’70s.

They subsequently formed Richard and the Rabbits, with future Cars keyboardist Hawkes, and then another band that included Easton. Other band member changes led to Massachusetts native Robinson joining the other four, and the quintet then formed the Cars in 1976.

Ocasek was married to Czech supermodel Paulina Porizkova. She announced their separation in 2018 after 28 years of marriage. Their home was listed for sale last year.

Though the Cars were eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, they weren’t selected until the Class of 2018, which represented their third nomination.

Watch the Cars perform at their induction, with Ocasek singing “My Best Friend’s Girl”

Related: Our coverage of the Cars’ Rock Hall Class of 2018 induction

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