Seven Times Ric Ocasek Surprised Us, From ‘Hairspray’ to Bad Brains

In a universe of strong and eccentric personalities, Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, who died Sunday at the age of 75, was certainly – and happily – an odd bird.

By most accounts he was quite friendly in person, yet Ocasek, 75, always seemed distant and aloof, as if he was as hermetically sealed off from the rest of pop’s firmament as his music. While that made for adventurous listening within the darker corners of the Cars catalog — their 1979 sophomore effort “Candy O” was downright chilly — it also made their live shows less than eventful.

However, that mirror-shade cool also made the surprises in his career stick out like sore thumbs. And while it’s maybe not shocking that he and Alice Cooper were neighbors in the Hollywood Hills for a time, it did make for some odd-couple photos (above). Here are a handful of moments where Ric Ocasek shook and shocked.

  1. His obsession with the electro-punk duo Suicide
    At the height of the Cars’ initial burst of success in the late 1970s, Ocasek produced the sophomore album from the influential New York duo Suicide, 1980’s “Alan Vega/Martin Rev.” Though part of the epochal NYC punk scene of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City and C.B.G.B.’s, Suicide was different from every other act on that scene – and continued to be throughout their career – a vocal/keyboard duo that was radically aggressive, savagely dissonant and manically marauding in sound and onstage. Ocasek smoothed down a few of their rougher edges, on this and several other duo and solo efforts (such as 1983’ “Saturn Strip” from Vega), but never stripped the pair of their raw power or poetry. The Cars even brought Suicide to open their “Candy O” tour, surely opening the eyes and twisting the minds of many a Midwestern kid expecting “My Best Friend’s Girl.”


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