Music lost another one of the greats when heaven opened its gates for Ric Ocasek, who died Sept. 15, just days after rocker Eddie Money had passed away.
Ocasek co-fronted the iconic new wave-power pop band The Cars. This band was big back in my time. You can’t listen to songs like “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “Good Times Roll,” “Shake It Up,” “You Might Think” and “Drive,” among 26 charting singles, and not get some sort of great flashback.
I can’t be the only person who happened to notice this, but when Ocasek’s death made headlines, some of the songs played were Cars songs sung by Benjamin Orr, not Ocasek. This was an obvious oversight. Not to take away from Ocasek, but Orr sang lead vocal on some of the band’s big hits, like “Just What I Needed,” “Let’s Go,” “Shake It Up” and “Drive,” the band’s only Billboard Hot 100 No. 1. Sadly, Orr passed away in 2000.
Ocasek had such a distinctive look about him so when the video music craze and MTV came into play, his image was magnified. But let’s not let that deter from the fact that he, too, was a great front-man. He cranked out some rad vocals on “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Good Times Roll,” “Touch And Go” and “Tonight She Comes.”
I had loved the group’s music before, but “Heartbeat City” was a game-changing album for me. I’m willing to bet it was for a lot of people, especially when the videos began to roll out. “You Might Think” was a huge song, but the video was even bigger. The visual effects and humor made for great viewing. Ocasek was a huge part of the song and video’s success. The video was named Video Of The Year at the first MTV “Video Music Awards” show.
“Heartbeat City” was a massive commercial success for a band whose music was heavily influenced by punk, garage rock and bubblegum pop. The album sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S.
Other singles followed, including “Magic,” “Hello Again,” “Why Can’t I Have You,” which all featured Ocasek, and “Drive,” on which Orr sang lead.
I’ve heard arguments about who was better, Orr or Ocasek. I don’t like to pick sides because the music was what mattered to me. That would be like asking me who is better in Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie? Or, which Eagle do you like best? C’mon, they’re all iconic bands. Can’t we all just be friends?
As most bands do, The Cars experienced a break-up. Ocasek did some solo projects with limited success, like the single “Emotion In Motion.” But, nothing could compare to the magic that was The Cars.
In 2018, The Cars were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, proving the band’s legacy and contribution to the music world.
As with most of my favorites, I get nostalgic when I learn that another has passed on. It feels like another little part of me is gone, too. Then I pull out their albums from my collection, crank up the volume and celebrate the music all over again.
David T. Farr can be reached at email@example.com.