Lead Singer Of The Cars, Ric Ocasek, Dies In New York

Sep 16, 2019
Originally published on September 16, 2019 5:14 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The lead singer and songwriter for the pop new wave band The Cars has died. Ric Ocasek was one of the most popular artists from the MTV generation. He died yesterday. He was found unconscious in his home in Manhattan according to NYPD. The police say he was 75, though other sources say he was 70. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this remembrance.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The Cars began in Boston in the late 1970s during the punk era. They played in clubs and occasionally opened for bigger names who came to town. Boston radio stations started playing the demo of a song that soon became one of the band's biggest hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST WHAT I NEEDED")

THE CARS: (Singing) I guess you're just what I needed - just what I needed. I needed someone to feed.

BLAIR: The Cars didn't play edgy, rebellious punk. Their songs had a steady beat. They were singable and very radio-friendly. With songs like "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl," The Cars won over critics and gained millions of fans.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL")

THE CARS: (Singing) Here she comes again. When she's dancing 'neath the starry sky, ooh, she'll make you flip. Here she comes again. When she's dancing 'neath the starry sky...

BLAIR: The Cars were playful in their music and their videos. Ocasek was razor thin with a long face and jet-black hair. He once told NPR's Guy Raz why he was The Car's most identifiable frontman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RIC OCASEK: That's 'cause I look like Ichabod Crane.

GUY RAZ: (Laughter).

BLAIR: Ocasek was born in Baltimore. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Cleveland, where his father was a computer analyst for NASA. It was a tough transition. He told Interview Magazine he got punched in the face the very first day of school. He said people stared at him a lot because he was so tall and skinny and he'd dyed the front of his hair blond. Even so, he told NPR he wasn't really into being in the spotlight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

OCASEK: I'm not into the - that much into being the front guy. I was the songwriter, really, and the person who put the songs together and maybe a bit of a director. But being an entertainer was never my, you know, main thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL")

THE CARS: (Singing) Let the good times roll. Let the good times roll.

BLAIR: The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year. Throughout his career, Ric Ocasek produced albums by other artists, including Weezer. The rock band paid tribute to Ocasek on Twitter, saying they were devastated by the loss of our friend and mentor. The statement ends, rest in peace, and rock on, Ric. We love you.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL")

THE CARS: (Singing) Let the photos be old. Let them show what they want. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.