The Cars finally made a pit stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but sadly, the honor came too late for co-founder Benjamin Orr. The Cars founding bassist died in 2000, but he was a big part of the band’s long-overdue induction ceremony in Cleveland as his bandmates remembered him in their speeches.
Benjamin Orr passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2000, four years before The Cars were eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors. The band was nominated and passed over twice before voters finally picked Cars singer Ric Ocasek, guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes, drummer David Robinson, and late bassist Benjamin Orr for inclusion in the exclusive rock club this year.
In his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, The Cars’ Ric Ocasek and Elliott Easton paid tribute to Benjamin Orr, who played bass and sang lead vocals on some of The Cars’ best-known songs, including “Drive,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Moving in Stereo,” and the band’s very first hit “Just What I Needed.”
“Just wanted to start off with a couple little-known facts about The Cars,” Ocasek told the crowd, according to Rolling Stone.
“When the band first started, Ben was supposed to be the lead singer. And I’m supposed to be the good-looking guy in the band. But after a couple of gigs, I kinda got demoted to the songwriter. But obviously it’s hard not to notice that Benjamin Orr is not here. He would’ve been elated to be here on this stage. It feels kinda strange to be up here without him. We miss him and love him dearly.”
Easton also credited Orr’s “incredible voice, solid bass playing, and good humor” for a huge part of the band’s success.
“Cleveland was Ben’s hometown, and I know whenever he is, he’s so proud of this special occasion and even more so that we’re here of all places,” The Cars guitarist said.
Benjamin Orr’s contributions to The Cars were well represented during the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance. According to Rolling Stone, the Cars played several Ben Orr-led classics for the Rock Hall crowd, including 1978’s “Moving in Stereo” and “Just What I Needed” after opening with the 1984 Top 10 single “You Might Think.” Weezer bassist Scott Shriner played in place of the Cars’ co-founder Benjamin Orr on all three songs.
Ric Ocasek previously told Rolling Stone that Benjamin Orr “would have been flipped out” by the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in Cleveland. But while he was excited about the Rock Hall honors, Ocasek downplayed the chance for a future Cars album without Benjamin Orr.
“I really miss Ben as part of the thing,” Ocasek told Rolling Stone. “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.”
The Cars recorded six albums from 1978 to 1987, spawning hits including “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Shake It Up,” and “Drive” before splitting up. In 2011, the surviving Cars released a one-off album, Move Like This, which included a poignant message to Benjamin Orr in the liner notes.
You can see Benjamin Orr performing one of The Cars biggest hits below.