Ric Ocasek Through the Years: Photo Gallery
The well-traveled Ric Ocasek was born into a Polish Catholic family in Baltimore, planted the seeds for his pop-star success in Cleveland and then found early fame in Boston. It's seems fitting, then, that his band would have a transportation-themed name: The Cars.
Born as Richard Theodore Otcasek on either March 23, 1944 or 1949, Ocasek caught the music bug when his grandmother have him a guitar at the age of 10. He specifically mentioned her when the Cars were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
When he was 16, Ocasek left for Ohio after his dad was transferred. There, he met future Cars bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr. They eventually landed back on the East Coast, and the Cars played their first official show on Dec. 31, 1976 at the Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire.
By then, they'd developed a devoted following at the Rathskeller, Boston's premiere New Wave club. The Cars' demo started getting some airplay, and they secured a key opening slot at a local Bob Seger concert.
Elektra Records signed the Cars, setting up a six-week recording schedule meant to last from February into March 1978. They recorded their legend-making debut in just 12 days, spending another nine polishing and mixing the results. Within a couple of years, they were headlining the Boston Garden, on the way to a career 13 Top 40 singles.
Ocasek began a tandem solo career with 1982's Beatitude; 1986's This Side of Paradise included the Top 15 single "Emotion in Motion." He also developed a reputation as a producer, helming albums by Weezer, Bad Brains, No Doubt, Jonathan Richman and Bad Religion, among others.
Through it all, Ocasek remained an enigmatic figure. Even back in the late '70s, reporters were speculating on his age. "Like Athena," one Boston writer once said, "the Cars were born mature and fully armed." Upon his death, some reports had Ric Ocasek at 70, some at 75.
Here's a look back at his life and career through the years: