Ric Ocasek, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame singer whose popular new-wave band, The Cars, helped define the sound of rock music in the late 1970s and ’80s, was found dead in his New York City apartment on Sunday, a police spokesman told Fox News. Ocasek was 75.
His estranged wife, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, found him unresponsive Sunday afternoon at his home in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, sources told the New York Post, adding that he apparently died of natural causes. Police said there was no sign of foul play.
The Cars’ self-titled 1978 debut album was a smash hit, boosted by singles including “Just What I Needed.” The album helped lead the way for new wave’s influence on rock music throughout the following decade.
The band’s 1981 single “Shake It Up” hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while 1984’s “Drive” hit #3.
“I liked songwriters, I was always attracted to people like Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Gene Vincent in the ’50s, and when the ’60s came, of course I loved The Beatles, but I also loved the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, and Frank Zappa,” Ocasek told The Vinyl District earlier this year. “I certainly always loved a good pop song. I always liked great songs, and it didn’t matter if it was from the Carpenters or Lou Reed. As long as they were done well and they weren’t corny or fake.”
The band broke up in the late-’80s, as Ocasek embarked on a solo career. His 1986 single “Emotion in Motion” was Ocasek’s only song to crack the Top 40 without The Cars behind him.
Ocasek and Porizkova were married for 28 years before their breakup last year. They were said to have met while The Cars recorded the music video for “Drive.”
The Cars were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, an occasion that saw the band perform together for the first time in years — but without co-founder Benjamin Orr, who died in 2000.
Ocasek, in a Rolling Stone interview, described the performance as “a good cap on the bottle” of his career, which also included painting in his later years.
“It’s kind of weird because it’s like a lifetime. It is a lifetime. I had three families during that time. They are like lives that go by and millions of people and things and artists and writers and business people and fans. … It’s a lot of stuff. It’s been a pretty eventful life, I can say.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.