Ric Ocasek

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Ric Ocasek
Background information
Birth name Richard T. Otcasek
Born (1949-03-23) March 23, 1949 (age 66)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Genres Rock, new wave
Occupation(s) Musician, singer, songwriter, music producer
Instruments vocals, guitar
Years active 1973–present
Associated acts The Cars
Website ricocasek.com
Notable instruments
Mid-1970s Fender Jazzmaster[1]

Ric Ocasek (born Richard T. Otcasek; March 23, 1949) is an American musician and music producer. He is best known as lead vocalist (along with Benjamin Orr), rhythm guitarist and songwriter for the rock band, the Cars. Ocasek grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.[2] When Ocasek was 16, his father, a computer analyst for NASA, was transferred to Cleveland, Ohio. It was there that he first met Benjamin Orr. Orr was a member of a popular local band that performed on WEWS-TV; Ocasek liked their performance and got in touch with Orr.[3] Ocasek briefly attended Bowling Green State University near Toledo, Ohio.[4][5] However, he dropped out to pursue a career in music.[6] He reconnected with Benjamin Orr in Columbus, Ohio, and the two began booking bands together. Soon, they formed one of their own and began to perform in and around Ohio State University.[7] Ocasek is married to model Paulina Porizkova, who is his third wife. They got married in 1989.[8] Ocasek has six children from his three marriages, including two sons with Porizkova.[9]

Early career[edit]

In the early 1970s Ric Ocasek played in the folk band Milkwood with friend Ben Orzechowski (Ben Orr), who were influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.[10] The band released one album in 1973, How's the Weather, on Paramount Records. The album had no success and quickly disappeared shortly after release, and Milkwood split up. It was then that Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr formed their new band, Richard and the Rabbits (a name suggested by Jonathan Richman).[11] In 1974 Ric and Ben played as a duo at a south shore Boston Ground Round Restaurant, until a company V.P. stopped in one night and said they were not "family-friendly entertainment", and had to let them go.

The Cars[edit]

Ocasek's breakout success was as a founding member of the new wave band Cap'n Swing, later renamed the Cars, which had numerous hit songs from 1978 to 1988; he played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals for a majority of songs (bassist Benjamin Orr was lead vocalist on the remaining tracks). After splitting writing duty with Orr in the 1970s, Ocasek became the principal songwriter of the band, and wrote nearly all of the Cars' material, sharing credit on only a few songs with bandmate Greg Hawkes as co-writer. In 2010, Ocasek reunited with the surviving original members of the Cars to record their first album in 24 years, titled Move Like This, which was released on May 10, 2011.

Solo career[edit]

The singer released his first solo album in 1982. Beatitude is a somewhat more experimental variation of the Cars' new wave rock sound. On some tracks Ocasek played all of the instruments.[12] Greg Hawkes played on the album.[13] A more synthesizer-heavy follow up, This Side of Paradise, was released in 1986. This featured Hawkes, Elliot Easton and Ben Orr.[14] A No. 15 hit single, "Emotion in Motion", accompanied the album.

The Cars disbanded in 1988, and he disappeared from the public eye for a couple of years. He resurfaced in 1990 with his own album, Fireball Zone. One track, "Rockaway", enjoyed a brief stay on the charts, but his solo albums have seen disappointing sales, especially compared to his success with the Cars. He subsequently released other solo works throughout the decade, including 1993's Quick Change World, 1996's Getchertikitz (a collaboration with Suicide's Alan Vega comprising only beatnik poetry set to music, sound effects, etc.), and 1997's Billy Corgan-produced Troublizing (which Ocasek supported with a very brief tour, his first since leaving the Cars). In 2005 Ocasek released another album, Nexterday, to little fanfare, but it received positive reviews.


During his time with the Cars, Ocasek developed a reputation as a successful producer, and took this role for many up-and-coming bands of differing genres including Bad Brains' Rock for Light and Guided by Voices' Do the Collapse. His other production credits include Weezer's Blue Album & Green Album (both multi-platinum), Suicide, Romeo Void, Hole, Bebe Buell, No Doubt, Nada Surf, Irish folk-punk band Black 47, Bad Religion, Johnny Bravo, D Generation, The Wannadies, Possum Dixon, Martin Rev, Jonathan Richman, and the 2006 album by The Pink Spiders titled Teenage Graffiti. He also produced a portion of the third Motion City Soundtrack album, Even If It Kills Me. In 2014, Ocasek produced Everything Will Be Alright in the End, the ninth studio album by Weezer and his third collaboration with the band, and For All My Sisters, the sixth album by The Cribs.[15]

In other media[edit]

Ocasek wrote a book of poetry, 1993's Negative Theatre. It was at one time expected to be incorporated into an album and multimedia incarnation of the same name, but those plans were dropped abruptly. For many years Ocasek had a hobby of making drawings, photo collages, and mixed-media art works which, in 2009, were shown at a gallery in Columbus, Ohio as an exhibit called "Teahead Scraps".[16]

Ocasek had a cameo role in the John Waters feature film Hairspray,[17] and had a bit part in the 1987 movie Made in Heaven[18] in which he played a mechanic. He had a non-speaking role (beatnik painter) in Woody Allen's "Take the Money and Run" (1969).

Ocasek stated in a 2005 interview in Rockline that he hated touring and it was unlikely that he would do so again. He also stated he would not be reuniting with the Cars again, but gave the okay to his former bandmates to do so with Todd Rundgren replacing him on vocals (the resulting band is called The New Cars).

On April 17, 2006, Ocasek appeared on The Colbert Report and volunteered to put Todd Rundgren "on notice". He appeared again on the July 26, 2006, episode to cheers from the audience as he volunteered to lead a commando mission to "rescue" Stephen Jr., the baby eagle at the San Francisco Zoo named after Stephen Colbert. He also appeared again on April 18, 2007, in order to support his wife during her appearance on the show, after remarks that she found Colbert "extremely attractive". He has been mentioned many times in other episodes as well.

The Cars, with Ocasek, appeared on The Colbert Report on August 9, 2011, to promote their new album, Move Like This.

In 2012, Ocasek wrote another book, "Lyrics and Prose", a complete collection of lyrics from his solo albums, as well from the Cars' albums. It also contains prose and poetry never set to music, also photographs and artwork done over the years that was previously unpublished.

Personal life[edit]

Ocasek has been married three times. He married early in life, but divorced and was married to his second wife, Suzanne Ocasek, in 1972.[19] Ocasek was still married to Suzanne when he met model Pavlína Pořízková during filming of the music video for the Cars' song "Drive" (directed by Timothy Hutton) in 1984. At that time Pořízková was 19 years old and Ocasek was 35.

Five years after meeting (in 1989), Ocasek and Porizkova married. This was Ocasek's third marriage, and Porizkova's first.

Ocasek has six sons, two from each of his three marriages. One of his sons, Christopher Otcasek, is a singer who formed the rock group Glamour Camp. Adam Otcasek was born in 1970. Eron was born in 1973 and Derek was born in 1982.[19]

He and co-founder of the Cars Benjamin Orr were known to be close friends. Their friendship was commemorated in a song Ocasek wrote as a dedication to Orr upon his death in 2000 ("Silver", from Nexterday).


Solo albums[edit]

Spoken word album[edit]

  • Getchertikitz, a collaboration with Alan Vega (1996 Sound Effects)


Year Song Australia Canada US Hot 100 US MSR US A.C. US Dance Album
1983 "Something to Grab For" - - 47 5 - - Beatitude
"Jimmy Jimmy" - - - 25 - 60
"Connect Up to Me" - - - - - 37
1986 "Emotion in Motion" 8 18 15 1 8 - This Side of Paradise
"True to You" 100 - 75 9 - -
1991 "Rockaway" - 46 - 11 - - Fireball Zone

Other appearances[edit]

Year Song Album Notes
1991 "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" Simply Mad About the Mouse
1991 "Fly by Night" Moment of Truth Writer of one track on album by Terri Nunn


  1. ^ Musician, Player and Listener, vol. 39. Amordian Press, January 1982 [1] His favorite guitar is an eight-year old Fender Jazzmaster, painted pink. "I used it on this record a lot, and I use it on every record, all the time,"
  2. ^ David Fricke. "Workaholic Ric Ocasek Freaks Out at Vacationtime." Omaha (NE) World-Herald, March 21, 1982, p. E8.
  3. ^ Jane Scott. "In the Driver's Seat." Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 14, 1986, Friday Magazine, p. 42.
  4. ^ New, The. "Ric Ocasek". New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (October 17, 2004). "Just What They Needed?", New York Times
  6. ^ Susan Ladd. "Leader of the Cars Knows How to Crank Out Video Hits." Greensboro (NC) News & Record, July 13, 1984, p. B1.
  7. ^ Jane Scott. "Cars Are Roaring Back." Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 7, 1984, p. 5C.
  8. ^ Laura C. Smith. "My husband the Car." Entertainment Weekly, August 18, 1995, p. 68.
  9. ^ David Fricke. "The Return of the Cars." Rolling Stone, June 9, 2011, pp. 50–53.
  10. ^ Scott, Jane. "Cars Are Roaring Back" The Plain Dealer August 7, 1984: 5C.
  11. ^ http://www.linkedin.com/in/greghawkes
  12. ^ http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1986-10-24/features/8603040834_1_cars-songs-ric-ocasek
  13. ^ http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=cars
  14. ^ http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1986-10-24/features/8603040834_1_cars-songs-ric-ocasek
  15. ^ http://www.nme.com/news/the-cribs/78894/?recache=62&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=thecribs
  16. ^ Whiteman, Doug (March 29, 2009). "The Cars' Ocasek shakes up career with art debut". Associated Press. 
  17. ^ "New York Times". New York Times. October 13, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Made in Heaven (1987) Acting Credits". New York Times. October 13, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Goldstein, Toby (1985). Frozen Fire: The Story of the Cars. Chicago: Contemporary Books. p. 14. ISBN 0-8092-5257-0.

External links[edit]