Ric Ocasek, the idiosyncratic singer and guitarist for the Cars and hit-making album producer, died on Sunday in his New York City apartment. He was 75. At approximately 3 p.m. ET, police officers responded to a 911 call at Ocasek’s home at 140 E. 19th Street, the rep said. Officers discovered Ocasek unconscious and unresponsive. He was later pronounced dead at the scene, though no cause of death has been revealed. A rep for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Beginning with the Cars self-titled debut in 1978, Ocasek established himself as a stoic frontman with a sense of humor and melodrama on songs like “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” and “Good Times Roll.” As a member of the Cars, Ocasek helped kickstart the new-wave movement by pinning his disaffected vocals against herky-jerky rhythm guitar, dense keyboards and dancefloor-ready beats, and as one of the group’s lead vocalists, alongside bassist Benjamin Orr, he sang the hits “Shake It Up” and “You Might Think.” With the exception of only a couple of songs, Ocasek wrote every tune the Cars recorded. After the band broke up in 1988, Ocasek recorded as a solo artist and worked as a producer, helping sculpt blockbuster hits like Weezer’s Blue Album and Green Album and cult favorites like Bad Brains’ Rock for Light.
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 and 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.
Ocasek was married three times. He married early in life, but divorced and was married to his second wife, Suzanne Ocasek, in 1971. Ocasek was still married to Suzanne when he met 18-year-old model Paulina Porizkova during filming of the music video for the Cars’ song “Drive” in 1984. Ocasek and Porizkova were married on August 23, 1989. The couple had two sons, Jonathan Raven Otcasek (b. November 4, 1993), and Oliver Otcasek (b. 1999). In May 2018, Porizkova announced she and Ocasek had separated a year earlier.