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It is as if everything happens in threes, first Daniel Johnston, then Eddie Money, and now Ric Ocasek. All three legends have passed over the past fortnight, each contributing a vital role in their heyday which still echoes across the airwaves in this twenty-first century atmosphere. The importance of the recent Ric Ocasek cannot be dismissed as another one-time vital voice of music, the essence of his art and the contribution he made is staggering. Though the question is as always-should we mourn or simply celebrate their lives, and the contribution they made to ours?
Perhaps the celebration is best, looking directly at Ric there are moments in time which earned him the respectable legend label with more than just the words he wrote or his voice when he sang. Originally The Cars consisted of singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Ric, singer and bassist Benjamin Orr, lead guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson on the drums. That original duo of Ric and Benjamin came together in the sixties, forming folk-styled outfits such as Milkwood. As the change in music began, the duo opted for a more conventional rock sound and so The Cars were born. To understand what Ric Ocasek was aiming for, is to look at the sounds and textures created by the outfit along with their importance.
The Cars were musically three things, the past, the present, and the future combined. When they first came to prominence the backbone was anchored in the Rockabilly sounds of the fifties, played in the style of Punk, and lashed with the synthesizer layers of New Wave. The Cars were all things, New Wave before it became a term, whilst still igniting with the minimalistic punk-stylings of the day with a steady dose of nostalgia behind the beat. That noise from the melting pot spearheaded by Orr and Ocasek earned the band the title of “Best New Artist” in 1978’s Rolling Stone Magazine. The fact that the songs written by Ric became airwaves staples, which were rife with energy and optimism, a departure from the darker mood which had embedded itself within most other New Wave contemporaries. This set the lyrical themes apart, making The Cars stand out, especially with tracks such as “Good Times Roll” “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed”, enjoyable music in a time when despair was the popular premise.
“The creative part for me is making songs, and that’s what I really love the most, and that’s what I’ve always done for every band I’ve ever had”. -Ric Ocasek
Of course The Cars biggest hit, “Drive, came in 1984, the mournful number hit a high of #4 on the US Billboard charts. But it was the following year when the number created an impact which would never be forgotten. In July 1985, at the London Live Aid event, the song “Drive” was used to capture the devastation of Ethiopia, as the music formed a backdrop to a montage of clips. The message within the words drove home the importance of the concert that day, the very purpose summed up in the words penned by Ocasek. Following the concert, the emotive track re-entered the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #4 that August. All proceeds from the sales of that re-released song raised nearly £160,000 for the Band Aid Trust, and Ric Ocasek presented the charity’s trustee Midge Ure with a cheque for that amount in November 1986.
Richard Theodore Otcasek March 23, 1944 – September 15, 2019