Ric Ocasek, the pop genius who wrote a string of hits for The Cars, the legendary new-wave act he fronted and played guitar for through the late 1970s through the late ’80s, was found dead in his New York City apartment, according to multiple news reports. He was 75.
Police received a call around 4 p.m. about an unconscious male at a townhouse on East 19th Street who was pronounced dead at the scene, NBC New York reported. The TV station and other outlets said they confirmed with law enforcement that the deceased man was Ocasek.
Page Six cited sources saying Ocasek appeared to have died of natural causes. The Associated Press reported that police said there were no signs of foul play and that the New York City medical examiner ultimately would determine a cause of death following an investigation.
The Cars circa 1978
The origins of The Cars date back to several groups that Ocasek and the late Benjamin Orr formed in the 1960s and ’70s in Ohio and Michigan before relocating to Boston. They’d eventually team up with Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton and David Robinson to form The Cars in 1976.
The band signed to Elektra Records after “Just What I Needed” off its demo tape began receiving airplay in Boston in 1977, and the band released its self-titled debut the following year, landing three singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and generating airplay for several other songs. The band would go on to score hits off its subsequent albums, honing a quintessentially new wave — and completely unique — sound along the way.
After The Cars’ break-up in 1988, Ocasek continued to record solo albums and worked as an in-demand producer, helming hit albums for Weezer (both the so-called “Blue” and “Green” albums), and putting a heavy pop sheen on Guided By Voices’ divisive Do the Collapse in the late ’90s.
The Cars circa 2011
A decade after Orr’s death in 2000, The Cars reunited, recording a new album, Move Like This, that was released in 2011. They thrilled fans by touring for that album, and, in 2018, the band finally was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Last year, Ocasek also announced that he’d separated from his wife Paulina Porizkova the year before after decades of marriage.
Below, we’ve compiled some of The Cars’ biggest hits and reactions to news of Ocasek’s death.
“Who is gonna drive us home now?
Ric the writer behind one of our favorite American bands of all time. We were truly saddened to hear of his passing. “ – JT pic.twitter.com/qGLDx2ZnqR
— Duran Duran (@duranduran) September 16, 2019
R.I.P. Ric Ocasek, lead singer with The Cars, at 75. A very cool cat. He was the first person to hear my album The Flat Earth from start to finish, in Mutt Lange's house in Chelsea.
— Thomas Dolby (@ThomasDolby) September 16, 2019
— Terri Nunn (@RealTerriNunn) September 16, 2019
Rick was one of the good guys. I’m grateful we got to work together, sort of… https://t.co/ONMLTJIjet
— Lloyd Cole (@Lloyd_Cole) September 16, 2019
I wanted to say something about what Ric meant to me but Brandon's letter says it better than I ever could. He was a giant of rock n roll and his songs will outlast all of us. https://t.co/UGOEspHROB
— Brett Gurewitz (@BrettGurewitz) September 16, 2019
Peace and love to Ric Ocasek , his family and fans of The Cars! RIP! https://t.co/6QbATqIPIl
— Living Colour (@LivingColour) September 16, 2019
Very very sad about Ric O, whose voice is one of my favorite instruments. 💔♥️https://t.co/SCdzyiAhQi
— Tanya Donelly (@TanyaDonelly) September 16, 2019
The weezer family is devastated by the loss of our friend and mentor Ric Ocasek, who passed away Sunday. 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. #RIPRicOcasek #karlscorner pic.twitter.com/JcTXevr6V8
— weezer (@Weezer) September 16, 2019
— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) September 16, 2019
The first Cars album is literally perfect; there might not be a better debut ever. The rest of the catalog is untouchable.
Ric Ocasek was the architect. Nobody could combine pop hits with straight up weirdness like he could.
What a body of work, what a cool guy. Rest in power.
— scharpling (@scharpling) September 16, 2019
Ric O and Benjamin O songwriters in the sky
— Stephen Perkins (@stephenperkins) September 16, 2019
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
- The Cars make Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — but Kate Bush and Depeche Mode snubbed
- The Cars’ ‘Candy-O’ and ‘Panorama’ reissued with remastered audio, unreleased tracks
- The Cars to issue unreleased ‘Live at the Agora 1978’ on vinyl for Record Store Day
- Video: The Cars play Seattle’s Showbox — band’s first concert in nearly 25 years
- The Cars announce 10-date reunion tour; first trek in nearly 25 years
- The Cars debut clip of ‘Blue Tip,’ first new song since 1987, on Facebook
- The Cars in the studio, mum on possible first reunion since 1987