Ric Ocasek, the former lead singer of the iconic new wave band The Cars, has been found dead in his Manhattan home, the New York Police Department confirmed to Heavy.
“That is true,” a spokesman for NYPD said when asked about Ocasek’s death. Police say that Ocasek was found “in his bed unconscious and unresponsive” and that the call came in around 4 p.m. on September 15, 2019 for a male in need of aid inside a residence at East 19th Street.
Ocasek’s specific cause of death has now been released.
Ocasek died from cardiovascular disease – specifically “hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, also called atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of plaque in the arteries that can weaken the heart’s muscle,” Daily Variety revealed. Pulmonary emphysema contributed to his death also.
It’s been a bad week for music; the music world recently mourned the death of rocker Eddie Money. Iconic songs like 1978’s “Just What I Needed” helped make Ric Ocasek a rock legend. “I don’t mind you coming here, wasting all my time, ’cause when you’re standing oh so near, I kinda lose my mind…” There was also “Best Friend’s Girl,” “Let’s Go,” “Shake It Up,” and so many more.
Page Six reports that Ocasek’s estranged wife, the model Paulina Porizkova, found him “around 4:14 p.m. inside his Gramercy Park pad.” He was 75, according to NYPD, but other reports put his age at 70, and Ancestry records give it both ways. TMZ reports that he was already dead when found. No foul play is suspected.
Ocasek is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2018. Police had responded to Ocasek’s townhouse after receiving a call for an unconscious man, Rolling Stone reported.
When they were inducted into the Hall of Fame, The Cars were described as “hook-savvy with the perfect combo of new wave and classic rock,” The New York Daily News reports.
One man spoke for other fans when he wrote on Twitter, “First Eddie Money, now Ric Ocasek. The music of my youth is slowly dying off. ?” And another: “Uh no! Ric Ocasek died! RIP Ric. I love the Cars!”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Paulina Porizkova Described in a Moving Instagram Post How She Realized Ocasek Had Passed Away After Touching His Cheek; His Family Was Caring for Him as He Recovered From Surgery
Still, it was Porizkova who posted a moving Instagram post about the singer’s last day.
“Ric was at home recuperating very well after surgery. Our two sons, Jonathan and Oliver, and I were making sure he was comfortable, ordering food and watching TV together,” Porizkova posted on Instagram in a message signed “from the Ocasek family.”
“I found him still asleep when bringing him his Sunday morning coffee. I touched his cheek to rouse him. It was then I realized that during the night he had peacefully passed on. We appreciate the great outpouring of love. We, his family and friends, are completely and utterly devastated by his untimely and unexpected death and would appreciate the privacy to mourn in private.”
At the time they separated, Ocasek’s wife also took to Instagram, and she compared the family unit to a car.
“Our family always has been — and still is — a well-built car. When the four of us are together, we can go wherever the road takes us. But as a bicycle, my husband and I no longer pedal in unison. So we’re ditching the bicycle.” She added: “Ric and I have been peacefully separated for the past year. The photos of our happy family are, in fact, happy family photos; we are just no longer a couple.”
The pair put their $15 million townhouse on the market after announcing their split. That’s the same townhouse where he was found. Paulina’s most recent post on Instagram before the death was a throwback modeling glamour shot posted two days before Ocasek died.
2. Ocasek Was Born in Baltimore & Received His First Guitar From His Grandmother
Ocasek was, according to All Music, born Richard Otcasek in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1949. His father worked for NASA. He was raised partly in Cleveland. He said during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech that he went to high school in Cleveland.
“The first time I ever played in front of people, I tried to find a place where no one would really know me,” he said, of his time in Cleveland.
According to Rolling Stone, Ocasek’s grandmother “gave him a guitar when he was about ten because he was enraptured by the Crickets’ ‘That’ll Be the Day,'” but he stopped playing it after taking lessons for three months. In his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he thanked his “wheel-chaired grandmother” for forcing him to sing at age 5 and for buying him the guitar from Sears and Roebuck.
Ocasek became estranged from his parents in his teens, Rolling Stone reported, and would travel to the Ocean City boardwalk to hang out for several weeks. His family moved to Cleveland at that time, and he decided to improve his grades so he could go to college, according to Rolling Stone. He tried Antioch College and Bowling Green State University, but college wasn’t for him, so he switched back to music.
“I started immediately writing; I thought that was the thing to do. In fact, the first song I ever wrote, I copyrighted. After I started writing songs I figured it would be good to start a band. Sometimes I’d put together a band just to hear my songs. If a person couldn’t play that well, there’d be fewer outside ideas to incorporate,” he told Rolling Stone.
Of course, Ric Ocasek is most famous for his work with The Cars, for which he served as “leader, singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter,” All Music reports in a biography of the singer.
But he also produced music for other artists. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says that he “became a producer-of-choice for younger bands such as Weezer and Bad Religion.”
He became interested in music as a teenager, listening to Buddy Holly & the Crickets, the bio reports. By the 1970s, he’d moved to Boston and started playing in a folk band named Milkwood, according to All Music, which adds that they even released an album called, How’s the Weather.
That band morphed into Rick & the Rabbits. They added new members to that group eventually, and The Cars was born.
3. The Cars Had More Than a Dozen Top 40 Singles, Propelling Ocasek Into Rock Stardom
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame called The Cars, which was founded in Boston in 1976 by Ocasek and Benjamin Orr, “the ultimate New Wave dream machine: a hook-savvy super-charged quintet that fused 60s pop, 70s glam and avant-rock minimalism into a decade of dashboard-radio nirvana.”
They scored 13 Top 40 singles in what the Hall of Fame calls “six classic studio albums.” The band moved the punk rock genre more to the mainstream, according to the site.
The site describes Ocasek and Orr as a “natural yin-yang.” Whereas Orr was the more polished of the two, Ocasek was described as having “vocal-dreamboat magnetism.” By the 1980s, The Cars broke up, but their influence was felt in the “90s alternative-rock boom,” with bands like Nirvana.
According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, some of The Cars’ hits were “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed.”
“Heartbeat City was the Cars’ commercial apex,” the site reports, including the song “Drive.” The band was aided by the MTV generation, according to All Music.
In the Hall of Fame speech, Ocasek said that, when the band first started, he was supposed to be the “good-looking guy in the band” but then he got “demoted to the songwriter, so I went with that one…It’s hard not to notice that (The Cars’) Benjamin Orr is not here. He would have been elated to be here on this stage. It feels quite strange to be up here without him. We miss him and love him dearly.” Orr died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. He was only 53 years old.
4. Ocasek Has Six Children With Three Different Wives
Although his marriage to Paulina Porizkova is best known because of her status as a supermodel, Ocasek was married two other times. He has two sons with Paulina – Jonathan Raven Otcasek and Oliver Otcasek. The family members use Ric’s real last name.
He has two sons each from his other two marriages also, reaching a grand total of six children. His other sons are Christopher Otcasek, Adam Otcasek, Eron Otcasek and Derek Otcasek. His second wife was named Suzanne Otcasek, and according to Newsday, they were married for 17 years. She’s currently an executive assistant at a center that helps children toward healthy development. She has a BA in English Literature from Simmons College.
Porizkova told Yahoo, “We have always been extremely close as a family unit. We have always traveled together and enjoyed spending time together. We actually just came from the Czech Republic, so it was nice to show them their roots.”
In 2018, Paulina wrote on Instagram, “Happy 25th birthday to one of the best people I have the privilege to know, my son Jonathan. He makes me feel like a good mom, and I can’t think of anything more flattering.”
According to IMDB, Christopher Otcasek was in an ’80s band called Glamour Camp. He appeared in the movie Pretty Woman. His Facebook page says he works at Insomniac Games.
Eron Otcasek was born in Boston and is an actor. According to his IMDB profile, Eron “took classes at New York Film Academy and graduated New York University with a B.A. in film and television.” He’s appeared in short films and in the movies Inscrutable Americans, Roomates, School of Rock, and 13 Going on 30. He’s also appeared on Law & Order.
As early as high school, Oliver Otcasek expressed an interest in music, telling the Cut, “Music is my main interest; I play the piano, the violin, and mandolin and am hoping to compose a violin concerto over Christmas break. Creativity runs in our family; my mom was a model and is now a writer, and my dad was the lead singer of the Cars.” Jonathan’s Facebook page says he lives in Chicago.
5. Over the Years, Ocasek Uttered Some Quote Gems About Fitting in & Life
Ric Ocasek has some powerful quotes to his name. Here are some of them:
“When you become tired of fitting in, is when you truly become yourself.”
“Your high points and your low points. High points don’t last that long, it’s a high and it happens. It’s great at the moment but you really can’t live on it.”
“They’re caught where there’s no way out or where you can’t see out. What are you going to do about it? I don’t have the answer. If I did there would be no insane asylums. But I see a lot of people, a lot of my friends in the same predicament. Many times in my life, I was there myself.”
“The best thing you can do for a song is to hear it on the radio and to imagine what it could mean to you and then kinda forget the words. Just imagine how you felt when you heard it, if it was one of your songs. If it became one of your songs. If it meant whatever it meant for you and as soon as you see the visual, you get a rapid eye movement relationship with the song instead of an imaginative one.”
Fans weighed in with tributes on Twitter. “Rest in Power Ric Ocasek, the man who inspired a million funny lookin’ scrawny teenagers to pick up a guitar,” wrote one. “I can’t believe it! RIP Ric Ocasek! My condolences to Paulina Porizkova and his children!” wrote another.
“R.I.P. Ric Ocasek. Thanks for the memories.”
This post is being updated as more is learned about Ric Ocasek’s death.
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