Ric Ocasek, lead vocalist and founding member of the rock band The Cars, was found dead in his Manhattan townhouse Sunday. Ocasek was 75.
The New York Police Department said he was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. On Monday, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said Ocasek died naturally of heart disease, with pulmonary emphysema contributing to his death.
His estranged wife, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, was the one who discovered his body. In an Instagram post, she explained that when she went to rouse him, she discovered that he had “peacefully passed on” during the night.
Born Richard Theodore Otcasek in Baltimore, Maryland, he met his future Cars bandmate Benjamin Orr in 1965. They connected a few years later and formed a band called ID Nirvana. They later put together a folk rock band called Milkwood in the early ’70s and cut a single album, which didn’t chart.
Along the way, Ocasek formed a number of bands, the last and most successful of which was The Cars in 1976. With Otcasek playing rhythm guitar and singing lead vocal on most of the songs and Orr as bassist and vocalist on the others, The Cars had numerous hits from 1978 to 1988, including “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “You Might Think,” “Magic” and “Tonight She Comes.”
He also was the band’s principal songwriter, sharing credit on a few songs with keyboardist Greg Hawkes.
In 1982, Otcasek released his first solo album, “Beatitude,” and on some of the tracks played all of the instruments. He followed that up four years later with a more synthesizer-enriched “This Side of Paradise,” which produced the No. 15 hit single, “Emotion in Motion.”
The Cars eventually split in 1988, but the original surviving members reunited in 2010 to record a new album, “Move Like This,” followed by a short tour.
Ocasek also produced recordings for several other artists, including Weezer and No Doubt.
Ocasek also wrote a book of poetry in 1993 called Negative Theatre, and had cameo roles in the John Waters film “Hairspray” and the Timothy Hutton film “Made in Heaven.” In 2018, The Cars were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They reunited once last time to perform at the induction ceremony.
He is survived by his six sons.