The wife of Ric Ocasek, the 75-year-old frontman for The Cars who died Sunday, said she “touched his cheek to rouse him” from sleep when she realized he had passed away. Ocasek’s wife, model and actress Paulina Porizkova, posted a statement on Instagram, saying he was “recuperating very well after surgery” and that their two sons were making sure he was comfortable.
Porizkova did not say what type of surgery Ocasek was recovering from. She said she went to bring him his Sunday morning coffee and “realized that during the night he had peacefully passed on.”
The New York City medical examiner said Monday that Ocasek died of heart disease, worsened by emphysema.
Ocasek’s death comes a year after The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, followed by an announcement by Porizkova on social media that she and Ocasek had separated after 28 years of marriage.
Ocasek, who sang, played guitar and wrote most of the band’s songs, and Benjamin Orr, who played bass and also sang, were ex-hippie buddies who formed The Cars in Boston in 1976. They were a decade older than many of their modern-rock compatriots but became one of the most essential American bands of the late 1970s and 1980s with their fusion of new wave, 1960s pop and 1970s glam.
Ocasek’s minimalist, half-spoken deadpan vocals set made the band’s sound, and his long, lanky appearance formed their lasting image.
The first three songs on their 1978 self-titled first album were all hit singles and remain widely known classics and oldies radio airplay: “Good Times Roll,” ”My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed.”
They had 10 other singles in the Billboard top 40, and of their six studio albums, four were in Billboard’s top 10.
The band’s commercial peak came with 1984’s “Heartbeat City,” which featured the hit singles “You Might Think” and “Magic,” sung by Ocasek, and the atypical ballad “Drive,” sung by Orr.
They were always an MTV favorite, and the whimsical, partly animated video for “You Might Think” along with the mournful video for “Drive” brought them near-constant airplay on the channel in the mid-1980s.
The band broke up in 1988, but their influence would be deeply felt in the 1990s and beyond. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana covered “My Best Friend’s Girl” at their last live show in 1994, and Ocasek produced albums for younger bands including Weezer, No Doubt and Bad Religion.