Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars, dies of heart disease at 75

Ocasek's identity confirmed by police

By Elizabeth Joseph and Theresa Waldrop, CNN
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

NEW YORK (CNN) - Ric Ocasek, lead singer of the new wave rock band The Cars, died of heart disease, according to the New York City medical examiner's office.

He was 75.

The New York Police Department received a call around 4 p.m. Sunday "for an unconscious male" at a townhouse on East 19th Street, the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information told CNN.

Ocasek died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to a press release Monday from the medical examiner's office. There was a contributing condition of pulmonary emphysema. The manner of death was natural.

Supermodel Paulina Porizkova, who separated from Ocasek last year, posted on Instagram that he had been recuperating at home following surgery. She was at the home helping their children care for their father when she found him while bringing coffee. "I touched his cheek to rouse him. It was then I realized that during the night he had peacefully passed on."

Porizkova shared a photo of flowers outside the home.

The Cars became hugely popular in the late 1970s and early 80s with hits including "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Drive."

The Cars were a mainstay of MTV in its early days. Their video for "Double Life" was the 21st video ever played on the new cable channel, according to VH1.

Ocasek married Porizkova after the two met while shooting the video for 1984's "Drive." They had two children together.

He was known for his mop of black hair and black sunglasses, which featured in many of the band's videos, including "You Might Think" in 1984.

Ocasek and The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

"(T)he Cars were the ultimate New Wave dream machine: a hook-savvy super-charged quintet that fused 60s pop, 70s glam and avant-rock minimalism into a decade of dashboard-radio nirvana," the band's biography reads on the Hall of Fame website.

The band had 13 Top 40 singles and four Top 10 LPs, according to the biography.

Ocasek founded the group in 1976, the biography said.

A demo tape of one of the band's first songs, "Just What I Needed," was so popular on two Boston radio stations that the band caught the attention of record companies, according to a Contemporary Musicians biography.

Ocasek was the band's main song writer and also played rhythm guitar.

The band broke up in 1988, but Ocasek went on to make solo albums, the biography said.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine ahead of the band's induction into the Hall of Fame, Ocasek described playing there as "a good cap on the bottle" after so many years.

"It's kind of weird because it's like a lifetime," Ocasek told the magazine, looking back at the history of The Cars. "It is a lifetime. I had three families during that time. They are like lives that go by and millions of people and things and artists and writers and business people and fans. ... It's a lot of stuff. It's been a pretty eventful life, I can say."

Reaction from musicians

As news of Ocasek's death spread, several musicians and other celebrities posted tributes to the fallen rocker.

Musician Billy Idol said in a tweet he was sorry to hear the news.

Peter Frampton tweeted that his thoughts were with Ocasek's family and applauded his career as a writer and singer.

Gun N' Roses guitarist Slash posted a photo of Ocasek during a performance.

Rainn Wilson, star of "The Office," also tweeted his condolences, saying he was "stunned and saddened."

CNN's Melissa Gray and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.

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