Ocasek in 2009
|Richard Theodore Otcasek|
|Born||March 23, 1944|
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Origin||Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.|
|Died||September 15, 2019 (aged 75)|
New York City, U.S.
Richard Theodore Otcasek (March 23, 1944 - September 15, 2019), known as Ric Ocasek, was an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. He was co-lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for the rock band the Cars. In addition to his work with the Cars, Ocasek recorded seven solo albums, and his song "Emotion in Motion" was a top 20 hit in the United States in 1986. Ocasek also worked as a record producer for artists such as Suicide, Bad Brains, Weezer, Nada Surf, Guided by Voices, and No Doubt. In 2018, Ocasek was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Cars.
Ocasek was born on March 23, 1944,[a] and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. When he was 16 years old, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his father worked as a systems analyst with NASA at the Lewis Research Center. He graduated from Maple Heights High School in 1963. Ocasek briefly attended Antioch College and Bowling Green State University, but dropped out to pursue a career in music.
Ocasek met future Cars bassist Benjamin Orr in Cleveland in 1965 after Ocasek saw Orr performing with his band the Grasshoppers on the Big 5 Show, a local musical variety program. He reconnected with Orr a few years later in Columbus, Ohio, and the two began booking bands together. They formed a band called ID Nirvana in 1968 and performed in and around Ohio State University.
Ocasek and Orr were in various bands in Columbus and Ann Arbor, Michigan, before relocating to Boston in the early 1970s. In Boston, they formed a Crosby, Stills and Nash-style folk rock band called Milkwood. They released one album, How's the Weather, on Paramount Records in early 1973 but it failed to chart. Future Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes played on Milkwood's album. After Milkwood, Ocasek formed the group Richard and the Rabbits, which included Orr and Hawkes. Ocasek and Orr also performed as an acoustic duo during this period. Some of the songs they played became the early Cars songs. Later, Ocasek and Orr teamed up with guitarist Elliot Easton in the band Cap'n Swing. Cap'n Swing soon came to the attention of WBCN disc jockey Maxanne Sartori, who began playing songs from their demo tape on her show. After Cap'n Swing was rejected by several record labels, Ocasek got rid of the bass player and drummer and decided to form a band that better fit his style of writing. Orr took over on bass and David Robinson, best known for his career with the Modern Lovers, became the drummer. Hawkes returned to play keyboards and the band became "the Cars" in late 1976.
Ocasek was a founding member of the Cars, recording numerous hit songs from 1978 to 1988. He played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals for a majority of songs (bassist Benjamin Orr was lead vocalist on the remaining tracks). After splitting writing duty with Orr in the 1970s, Ocasek became the principal songwriter of the band, and wrote nearly all of the Cars' material, sharing credit on only a few songs with bandmate Greg Hawkes as co-writer. In 2010, Ocasek reunited with the surviving original members of the Cars to record their first album in 24 years, titled Move Like This, which was released on May 10, 2011.
During his time with the Cars, Ocasek developed a reputation as a producer, and took this role for many up-and-coming bands of differing genres including Bad Brains' Rock for Light and Guided by Voices' Do the Collapse. His other production credits include Weezer's Blue Album and Green Album (both multi-platinum), Suicide,Romeo Void, Hole,Bebe Buell,No Doubt,Nada Surf, Irish folk-punk band Black 47, Bad Religion, Johnny Bravo, D Generation, the Wannadies, Possum Dixon, Martin Rev, Jonathan Richman, and the 2006 album by the Pink Spiders titled Teenage Graffiti. He also produced a portion of the third Motion City Soundtrack album, Even If It Kills Me. In 2014, Ocasek produced Everything Will Be Alright in the End, the ninth studio album by Weezer and his third collaboration with the band, and For All My Sisters, the sixth album by the Cribs.
Ocasek released his first solo album in 1982. Beatitude is a somewhat more experimental variation of the Cars' new wave rock sound. On some tracks Ocasek played all of the instruments. Greg Hawkes also played on the album. A more synthesizer-heavy follow-up, This Side of Paradise, was released in 1986; this featured Hawkes, Elliot Easton and Ben Orr. A No. 15 hit single, "Emotion in Motion", accompanied the album.
The Cars disbanded in 1988, and Ocasek disappeared from the public eye for a couple of years. He resurfaced in 1990 with his own album, Fireball Zone. One track, "Rockaway", enjoyed a brief stay on the charts, but his solo albums realized disappointing sales, especially compared to his success with the Cars. He subsequently released other solo works during the decade, including 1993's Quick Change World, 1996's Getchertiktz (a collaboration with Suicide's Alan Vega and Canadian poet Gillian McCain comprising only Beat poetry set to music, sound effects, etc.), and 1997's Billy Corgan-produced Troublizing (which Ocasek supported with a very brief tour, his first since leaving the Cars). In 2005 Ocasek released another album, Nexterday, to little fanfare, but it received positive reviews.
Ocasek wrote a book of poetry in 1993 titled Negative Theatre. It was at one time expected to be incorporated into an album and multimedia incarnation of the same name, but those plans were dropped abruptly. For many years Ocasek had a hobby of making drawings, photo collages, and mixed-media art works which, in 2009, were shown at a gallery in Columbus, Ohio, as an exhibition called "Teahead Scraps".
Ocasek stated in a 2005 interview in Rockline that he hated touring and was unlikely to do so again. He also stated he would not be reuniting with the Cars again, but gave the okay to his former bandmates to do so, with Todd Rundgren replacing him on vocals, using the name the New Cars.
On April 17, 2006, Ocasek appeared on The Colbert Report and volunteered to put Todd Rundgren "on notice". He appeared again on the July 26, 2006, episode to cheers from the audience as he volunteered to lead a commando mission to "rescue" Stephen Jr., the baby eagle at the San Francisco Zoo named after Stephen Colbert. He also appeared again on April 18, 2007, in order to support his wife during her appearance on the show, after remarks that she found Colbert "extremely attractive". He has been mentioned many times in other episodes as well. The Cars, with Ocasek, appeared on The Colbert Report on August 9, 2011, to promote their new album, Move Like This.
In 2012, Ocasek released Lyrics and Prose, a complete collection of lyrics from his solo and Cars' albums. The book also contains prose and poetry never set to music, as well as previously unpublished photographs and artwork.
Ocasek was married three times. His first wife Constance divorced him in Ohio in 1971. In the same year he married Suzanne Otcasek, who uses the original spelling of Ocasek's name. They were married for 17 years. During filming of the music video for the Cars' song "Drive" in 1984, Ocasek met 18-year-old Czech-bornsupermodelPaulina Porizkova, while he was still married to Suzanne. Ocasek and Suzanne divorced in 1988. He and Porizkova were married on August 23, 1989 on Saint-Barthélemy island. In May 2018, Porizkova announced she and Ocasek had separated a year earlier.
Ocasek had six sons, two from each of his three marriages. His eldest son, Christopher (b. 1964), is a singer who formed the rock group Glamour Camp which released one album in 1989, and appeared as a solo artist in the film Pretty Woman (1990). His other children include Adam (b. 1970), Eron (b. 1973), Derek (b. 1981), Jonathan Raven (b. 1993), and Oliver (b. 1999).
He and Cars co-founder Benjamin Orr were close friends who became estranged when the band broke up. Their friendship was commemorated in the song "Silver", which Ocasek wrote as a dedication to Orr upon his death in 2000.
Ocasek was found dead on September 15, 2019, by Porizkova at his New York City townhouse, which they still shared. He had been recovering from surgery. The Chief Medical Examiner office reported that Ocasek died from natural causes. He suffered from both hypertensive heart and coronary artery disease.
Porizkova and Ocasek were still in the process of their divorce, but he had disinherited her in a new will, alleging that before his recent surgery she had abandoned him. He also disinherited two of his six sons. A probate judge will have to rule on the veracity of the abandonment claims, then on the remaining estate to be divided.
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"Something to Grab For"||1983||47||5||--||--||--||--||--||Beatitude|
|"Connect Up to Me"||--||--||--||37||--||--||--|
|"Emotion in Motion"||1986||15||1||8||--||8||18||35||This Side of Paradise|
|"True to You"||75||9||--||--||100||--||--|
|"--" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
|"Steal the Night"||1983||The King of Comedy|
|"I Still Want You"||1987||Made In Heaven|
|"Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"||1991||Simply Mad About the Mouse|
With most -- but not all -- evidence pointing to 1944, declaring Mr. Ocasek's age with absolute certainty can be tricky, especially when the best person to verify with is no longer with us. But on Monday, The Times felt certain enough to make a definitive change to Mr. Ocasek's obituary. The story no longer alludes to any conundrum: He was 75.
That was in Cleveland, Ohio, since I used to live there.... I graduated from [Maple Heights] [sic] High School in 1963.