Ric Ocasek Biography

(Primary Co-Lead Vocalist of the Rock Band ‘The Cars’)

Birthday: March 23, 1944 (Aries)

Born In: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Ric Ocasek was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer who is best recognized as the primary co-lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, songwriter, and frontman for the rock band the Cars. Along with his band-mates Elliot Easton (lead guitar), Greg Hawkes (keyboards), Benjamin Orr (bass guitar), and David Robinson (drums), he has been credited with contributing to the new wave rock scene in the late 1970s. They released seven studio albums featuring popular songs such as My Best Friend’s Girl, Just What I Needed, Let the Good Times Roll, You Might Think, Let’s Go and Drive. As a solo artist, he has released seven more studio albums covering songs like Emotion in Motion. He and his band-mates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Richard Theodore Otcasek

Died At Age: 76


Spouse/Ex-: Paulina Porizkova (m. 1989), Constance Campbell (m. 1963–1971), Suzanne Ocasek (m. 1971–1988)

children: Adam Ocasek, Christopher Otcasek, Derek Ocasek, Eron Otcasek, Jonathan Raven Ocasek, Oliver Orion Ocasek

Born Country: United States

Rock Singers American Men

Height: 6'4" (193 cm), 6'4" Males

Died on: September 15, 2020

place of death: New York City, United States

Cause of Death: Hypertension

U.S. State: Maryland

City: New York City

More Facts

education: Maple Heights High School

Childhood & Early Life

Richard Theodore “Ric” Otcasek was born on March 23, 1944 in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, but was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where the family relocated when he was 16. He was born to an Irish and Welsh origin mother and a Czech origin father, who worked as a systems analyst with NASA at the Lewis Research Center.

He attended Maple Heights High School, from where he completed his graduation in 1963. He went to Antioch College and Bowling Green State University for a brief period of time before deciding to drop out to focus on a musical career.

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Ric Ocasek met future band-mate Benjamin Orr in Cleveland in 1965 when he was performing with his band the Grasshoppers on the local musical variety program Big 5 Show. They reconnected years later in Columbus, Ohio, and started performing together in the band ID Nirvana (formed 1968), before performing in various bands in Columbus and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

During the early 1970s, the two relocated to Boston and formed the Crosby, Stills and Nash-style folk rock band Milkwood, which released the sole album How's the Weather in early 1973 through Paramount Records. Greg Hawkes, who would later join the duo on Cars as a keyboardist, had worked on the album which failed to chart.

He and Orr continued to perform as an acoustic duo while also having day jobs, and formed another band, Richard and the Rabbits, along with Hawkes. The duo subsequently formed the band Cap'n Swing with guitarist Elliot Easton and attracted the attention of WBCN disc jockey Maxanne Sartori who often played songs from their demo tape on her show.

When Cap'n Swing failed to impress record labels, Ocasek decided to form another band, better suited to his style of writing, called the Cars, in late 1976 with Hawkes as its keyboardist. He removed the bass player and drummer of the former band and instead recruited David Robinson from the rock band, the Modern Lovers, as the new drummer, while Orr doubled as the bass player.

Ocasek and Orr both provided vocals to their songs and also shared writing credits in the 1970s, after which Ocasek became the principal songwriter of the band with some inputs from Hawkes in a few songs. They played their first official show at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire on December 31, 1976 with Danny Schliftman as keyboardist because Hawkes was not free to join the group until February 1977.

With Hawkes onboard, the Cars performed throughout New England in early 1977 and played songs that would later be included in their debut album. One song in particular, Just What I Needed, received heavy airplay on Boston radio stations and earned them record deals from Arista Records and Elektra Records; they signed a deal with ‘Elektra Records

Just What I Needed served as the debut single for their self-titled debut album The Cars, which was released in June 1978 and reached No.18 on the Billboard 200. Their second studio album, Candy-O (1979), was a bigger success which peaked at No.3 on the Billboard 200, even though their experimental third album Panorama (1980) failed to impress critics despite reaching No.5 in America.

Following the release of the band's commercially successful fourth album Shake It Up (1981), he released his first solo album Beatitude (1982), which was an experimental variation of the Cars' new wave rock sound. He regrouped with his band-mates to release Heartbeat City, their most successful album, in 1984, followed by a more synthesizer-heavy solo album, This Side of Paradise, in 1986.

After releasing their sixth album, Door to Door (1987), they announced their breakup in February 1988, following which he took a brief hiatus before releasing his third solo album Fireball Zone in 1991. He continued to release more solo albums in later years like Quick Change World (1993), Negative Theater (1993), Troublizing (1997) and Nexterday (2005) before reuniting with the Cars members for Move Like This (2011).

Ric Ocasek also served as a producer for several up-and-coming artists such as Motion City Soundtrack, Suicide, Bad Brains, Weezer, Nada Surf, Guided by Voices, and No Doubt. Moreover, he wrote a book of poetry titled Negative Theatre in 1993, hosted an exhibition called "Teahead Scraps" in Columbus, Ohio in 2009 and played small roles in many movies, apart from various media appearances.

Family & Personal Life

Ric Ocasek’s first marriage was to Constance Campbell from 1963 to March 25, 1971 and they shared two sons named Christopher and Adam. His son Christopher is a singer who formed the rock group Glamour Camp and appeared as a solo artist in the 1990 romantic comedy film Pretty Woman.

His second marriage was to Suzanne LaPointe who used the original spelling of his surname, “Otcasek” following their marriage and was married to him for 17 years between 1971 and 1988. He had two more children with her, Derek and Eron, the latter being an actor, musician and editor known for films like Roomates (2001), School of Rock (2003) and 13 Going on 30 (2004).

While still married to his second wife, he met 19-year-old Czech-born supermodel Paulina Porizkova during filming of a music video in 1984 and got married to her in August 1989 after divorcing Suzanne. He has welcomed two more sons with his third wife as well, named Jonathan Raven and Oliver.

While he shared a deep friendship with his longtime band-mate Benjamin Orr, they became estranged after the band broke up. They eventually reconciled shortly before Orr’s death in 2000 and he later wrote the song Silver, from his seventh and final studio album Nexterday, in his memory.

His third wife Paulina announced in May 2018 that the two had separated a year earlier and were in the process of getting a divorce. Ocasek, who suffered from both hypertensive heart and coronary artery disease, was found dead at his New York City townhouse on September 15, 2019 and was buried at Nine Partners Cemetery in Millbrook, New York.


Before his death, Ric Ocasek disinherited his estranged third wife Paulina from his new will, alleging that she had abandoned him before his recent surgery, but she settled the dispute with his estate in 2021. He had further left his two sons from his first marriage, Chris and Adam, out of his will and has been accused of being a deadbeat dad who ‘was never there’ by his eldest child.

See the events in life of Ric Ocasek in Chronological Order

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