The Cars are going back to their beginnings for the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction—at least Ric Ocasek is. While the iconic new wave band formed in Boston in 1976, Ric Ocasek first met his future bandmate and writing partner, Benjamin Orr, in Cleveland, where the Rock Hall is located and where The Cars will return for their long-awaited induction into the class of 2018 alongside fellow artists The Moody Blues, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, and Nina Simone.
Sadly, Benjamin Orr died of cancer in 2000, so Ric Ocasek won’t have his longtime friend by his side as the band accepts the honor. But The Cars frontman believes his late bandmate would have been thrilled by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame news and the induction that will take place in their former hometown.
Not only did Ric first cross paths with Orr in Cleveland, but Ocasek graduated from a Cleveland high school in 1963, and the city is the first place the future rock star ever played his own music in front of an audience. Returning to Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame feels like a whole “beginning and end” for the 71-year-old rock star.
“The first time I ever heard Ben, he was 16 years old and he played on a TV show in Cleveland called Upbeat. He was singing ‘You Came Into My Life’ with his band the Grasshoppers,” Ocasek told Rolling Stone. “That was in Cleveland, Ohio, since I used to live there, where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is. I graduated from [Maple Heights] High School in 1963. In fact, the first time I ever played live by myself on acoustic guitar was when I snuck into a folk club to try out.”
Ocasek said he knows Ben Orr “would have been flipped out” by the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in Cleveland.
“He grew up in Parma Heights, Ohio,” Ric said of Ben.
“He was pretty proud to have come from Cleveland. I lived in Cleveland for maybe six or seven years, through high school…Cleveland is pretty dear to me since it was a launching pad for a lot of things.”
Ric Ocasek expects that the remaining Cars will reunite to play a three-song set at the Rock Hall ceremony, and he named two of the band’s Ben Orr-led singles, “Just What I Needed” and “Drive,” as contenders for the set. But Ric downplayed the chance for a future Cars album without Benjamin Orr.
“I really miss Ben as part of the thing,” Ocasek admitted.
“As much as I want it to be the Cars and I love everyone so much in the Cars, without him it just feels different. It feels different. He was certainly my closest friend. He was in every band I ever had.”
Ric Ocasek revealed that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could be “a good cap on the bottle” for The Cars.
“I’ve got that in my mind,” Ric said.
“I thought, ‘I kind of started playing here and I could stop playing here, in Cleveland. This could be the bookends. One guy on a guitar playing bad songs and then I’m in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 45 years later.'”
The Cars were at the forefront of the late 1970s new wave scene. The original lineup included Ocasek and Orr as well as lead guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboard player Greg Hawkes, and drummer David Robinson. The band recorded six albums from 1978 to 1987, spawning hits like “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Drive,” before breaking up. Ric Ocasek’s 2005 solo album included the song “Silver,” which was a tribute to his long friendship with Benjamin Orr. In 2011, the surviving Cars released a one-off album, Move Like This, which also included a message to Orr in the liner notes.
The Cars will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14, 2018. Check out the band performing one of their biggest hits below.