New York Police Det. Martin Brown confirmed to USA TODAY that police were called to Ocasek’s residence around 4 p.m. EDT Sunday. “Upon arrival, police found a 75-year-old male unresponsive in bed,” Brown said. “He was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Brown said a family member found Ocasek’s body. “It doesn’t appear criminal at this time.”
The Cars, a Boston quintet famed for hits like “Drive,” “Shake It Up” and “Just What I Needed,” broke through in 1978, and Ocasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, David Robinson and Benjamin Orr were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. (Orr, the band’s original bassist and singer, died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.)
Ocasek never stopped marveling at the spectacle of pop stardom.
“It’s a long way from standing by a phone booth in the rain in Cambridge waiting for a call from L.A. to see if someone listened to our demo,” he told USA TODAY in 1987. “The first time you ever see you name in print, when you have nothing else, you can live on that for months, even if they spelled it wrong. Later, all the successes that mount up are extremely easy to forget. You can’t go back and live on those.”
The Cars split up in the late ’80s, then reunited in 2011 with much fanfare, after Ocasek found himself with a new batch of songs and a sense that they required company.
“Life is short,” he told USA TODAY while promoting the group’s album “Move Like This.” “I knew it would be more interesting than if I got anybody else.”
Ocasek understood that fans embraced them for the band’s signature sound, conceding that The Cars’ tunes “all have a similar quality. I broke it down once to be about six different songs that we do, and they’re all variations on a theme,” he said.
But he was a pop contradiction, churning out mainstream radio hits while producing and listening to bands like Suicide and Skinny Puppy.
“I’m not so intrigued with the American pop format, even though I fit into it quite comfortably,” he told USA TODAY. “I’m more intrigued with some of the esoteric music, because there are no real new ideas in American pop.”
Ocasek and his wife of almost 30 years, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, split last year and have two sons together, Jonathan and Oliver. The couple met when she starred in the video for 1984’s “Drive.”
“Our family has always been — and still is — a well-built car. When the four of us are together, we can go wherever the road takes us,” she wrote on Instagram in announcing their breakup in May 2018. “But as a bicycle, my husband and I no longer pedal in unison. So, we’re ditching the bicycle.”
She added: “The photos of our happy family are, in fact, happy family photos; we are just no longer a couple. The love we have for one another is so wide and deep it’s practically intangible, and that sort of love can never disappear. Expect to keep seeing happy family photos.”