Baltimore born, this owlish singer/songwriter/guitarist has had a well-documented impact on the Boston and national (even international) scenes as the driving force behind The Cars. Dropping out of Bowling Green University, Ocasek (born Richard Otcasek) fell in with fellow musician Ben Orr (when he was still known as Ben Orzechowski) and formed bands in Cleveland and New York City before reaching Cambridge. The two put together a folk trio named Milkwood, releasing an album on Paramount Records in 1973 and eventually evolved into Cap’n Swing in the Boston area, reaching some local prominence before packing it in. But, as much as that group was beloved locally, it only set the table for the massive and lasting success of the Cars beginning in 1978. Most laudably, Ocasek used his new-found fame and clout to aid and abet the Boston music scene, producing and playing on releases by the New Models and Peter Dayton as well as national efforts from San Francisco’s Romeo Void, Alan Vega and Martin Rev of Suicide, and singer Bebe Buell. His 1982 solo album Beatitude, which reached #28 on the national sales charts, also incorporated musicians from the local area. The Cars’ purchase of Intermedia Sound Studios on Newbury Street — converting it into the state-of- the-art Syncro Sound – pumped dollars and attention into the Boston music scene, and many of the area’s artists recorded there. Another album — 1986’s This Side of Paradise — appeared between Cars releases, spawning the hit “Emotion in Motion,” which reached #15, and would prove to be Ocasek’s commercial high-water mark as a solo artist; subsequent and regularly occurring solo albums released in the wake of the Cars’ demise produced steadily diminishing commercial results. However, Ocasek has successfully transitioned to the producer’s chair, fostering platinum efforts from Weezer and working with notable groups like Hole, No Doubt and Guided by Voices.
(by Carter Alan)