As reported by Pitchfork, Ric Ocasek—co-founder and frontman of legendary new wave band The Cars—has been found dead at his home in New York City. Not very many details have been released (including a cause of death) but Pitchfork says the police have confirmed the news in a statement. Ocasek was 75.
Ocasek founded The Cars in the ‘70s with longtime collaborator and friend Benjamin Orr, with whom he had been tentatively trying to form various bands since the ‘60s. They eventually decided to build a band around Ocasek’s songwriting style, bringing in guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboard player Greg Hawkes, and drummer David Robinson, with Orr going from lead vocalist to bass player and Ocasek taking over as the singer. The group released its eponymous debut in 1978, landing three now-iconic hits right off the bat with “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Good Times Roll,” all three of which helped define Ocasek and The Cars’ genre-bending and ahead-of-its-time approach to rock music. Not quite punk enough to be punk and too groundbreaking to be pop, it was new wave before that term existed.
The Cars released their similarly successful follow-up, Candy-O, a year after their debut, followed by the more experimental and divisive Panorama in 1980 and Shake It Up in 1981. After a hiatus, during which Ocasek released his solo debut Beatitude, he reunited with The Cars for the smash-hit Heartbeat City—an album that, among many accolades, won the Video Of The Year award at MTV’s first-ever VMAs for the single “You Might Think.” The band released what was initially its final album in 1987, with the disappointing Door To Door, and a year later The Cars had broken up.
Ocasek released his second solo album in that time, 1986's This Side Of Paradise, and post-Cars he continued to have a successful solo career. Ocasek also built a name for himself as a producer, and over the years he worked with a large number of indie-leaning rock and pop bands like Guided By Voices, Suicide, Hole, No Doubt, Nada Surf, Motion City Soundtrack, and Weezer—Ocasek produced the Blue Album, the Green Album, and 2014's Everything Will Be Alright In The End.
Benjamin Orr died from pancreatic cancer in 2000, with him and Ocasek reportedly not getting along particularly well in the years after (and leading up to) the band’s breakup. Then, in 2010, Ocasek and the other surviving original members reunited to release a seventh Cars album, Move Like This, and in 2018, Ocasek and the rest of the band were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.