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Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Ric Ocasek, front man for The Cars & Maple Heights grad, dies at 75

Ocasek and The Cars put out 13 top-40 hits during the 1970s and '80s.

NEW YORK — Ric Ocasek, whose work as the lead vocalist and songwriter of The Cars landed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has died at the age of 75.

Ocasek was found dead in his Manhattan townhouse Sunday afternoon. Exact circumstances surrounding his death are unknown at this time, but his family later released a statement on The Cars official Facebook page saying he had "peacefully passed on" overnight. He had apparently been recovering from recent surgery.

"We appreciate the great outpouring of live," the statement read, in part. "We, his family and friends, are completely and utterly devastated by his untimely and unexpected death and would appreciate the privacy to mourn in private."

Born in Baltimore in 1944, Ocasek moved with his family to the Cleveland area at the age of 16 and he graduated from Maple Heights High School in 1963. After dropping out of Bowling Green, he met bassist Benjamin Orr, and the two wound up performing in various groups around Ohio through the early '70s.

Following a move to Boston, the pair would collaborate with Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson, and The Cars were born in 1976. The group, often described as "new wave" and "power pop," would go on to put out 13 top-40 hits over the next decade-plus, including "You Might Think," "Magic," and "Tonight She Comes."

The group abruptly broke up in 1988, and aside from a few one-offs rarely played over the next 30 years. Orr's death from pancreatic cancer in 2000 likely played a role in this.

However, the band's contributions were not forgotten, and in 2018 Ocasek and the four other members were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That year's induction ceremony took place in Cleveland, allowing Ocasek to give proper thanks to his and Orr's home community.

The Rock Hall released the following statement on Ocasek's passing:

"Inductee Ric Ocasek’s hook-savvy songwriting and stylish, modern vocals for The Cars fused garage punk, pop and avant-rock to create a brash new wave sound that sparked a decade of rock classics. His later work as a producer drew on his innovative spirit and endeared him to new generations of musicians and fans."

Ocasek is survived by his third wife Paulina Porizkova (from whom he had been separated at the time of his death) and six children.