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Benjamin Orzechowski 
Benjamin Orr
October 3, 2000
Age 53 
Pancreatic cancer 
 
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Born: September 8, 1947
 
  The Cars' Benjamin Orr Dead At  53 Cars 
  
                                          Benjamin Orr, singer and bassist with new wave 
                                          hitmakers the Cars, succumbed to cancer at his 
                                          home in Atlanta on Tuesday night. He was 53.  

                                          As previously reported by MTV News, Orr, born 
                                          Benjamin Orzechowski on September 8, 1947, 
                                          had been hospitalized last May with what turned 
                                          out to be inoperable pancreatic cancer (see 
                                          "The Cars' Benjamin Orr Hospitalized").  

                                          According to former Cars keyboardist Greg 
                                          Hawkes, Orr was surrounded by his friends when 
                                          he passed away just before midnight (ET). 

                                          Orr co-founded the Cars with Ric Ocasek in 
                                          Boston in 1976 and sang lead on many of the 
                                          band's most recognizable songs, including 
                                          "Drive" and "Just What I Needed." The Cars 
                                          disbanded in 1988. Orr also released a solo 
                                          album in 1986 called "The Lace."  

                                          A management spokesperson for Ocasek spoke 
                                          on behalf of the singer-guitarist, telling MTV 
                                          News, "He's very devastated by the loss of a 
                                          close friend." 

                                          The singer had been playing with his new band, 
                                          Big People, right up until late September, 
                                          including a final show in Alaska on September 
                                          27. His Big People bandmates, Jeff Carlisi 
                                          (formerly of .38 Special), Derek St. Holmes (Ted 
                                          Nugent), and Rob Wilson, along with Orr's 
                                          manager, Billy Johnson, and Orr's fiancee, Julie 
                                          Snider, were with him in Atlanta when he died. 

                                          "Ben kept rocking," bandmate Carlisi told MTV News. "From 
                                          the time he was diagnosed, he told us he wanted to keep 
                                          playing until the end. He said, 'If I fall down one day and can't 
                                          get up, you'll know its over." 

                                          The group will now turn a 
                                          planned March of Dimes benefit 
                                          concert scheduled for this Friday at the 
                                          Tabernacle in Atlanta into a memorial 
                                          performance. According to Orr's manager, 
                                          another event is being planned to take place in 
                                          Orr's hometown of Cleveland. 

                                          Orr had reunited with his former Cars bandmates 
                                          -- Ocasek, Hawkes, Elliot Easton and David 
                                          Robinson -- this past summer for an interview to 
                                          be included on a new DVD documentary, "The 
                                          Cars Live," scheduled for release through Rhino 
                                          Home Video on November 1. Rhino will now be 
                                          donating a portion of the profits to the National 
                                          Pancreas Foundation.  

                                          Tributes to Benjamin Orr and cards to friends 
                                          and family will be accepted by Crossover 
                                          Entertainment Group, 2020 Howell Mill Road, 
                                          Suite C, Atlanta, GA, 30318. 

                                          Donations to the Benjamin Orr Memorial Fund 
                                          can be sent to at Box 600590, Newtonville, MA, 
                                          02460.  

                                           MTV-- Sorelle Saidman, with additional reporting 
                                                                by Kara Manning 
 

    
  Cars Co-Founder Benjamin Orr Dies Of Cancer

                      Benjamin Orr, co-founder of the Cars, died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday 
                      (Oct. 3) at his home in Atlanta. He was 53.  

                     The Cars were one of the most successful New Wave American bands 
                     to emerge in the late '70s. The bassist/vocalist founded the group in 
                     Boston in 1976 with Ric Ocasek, with whom he had collaborated for several 
                     years prior to the group's formation. Orr shared lead vocals 
                     with Ocasek and sang lead on some of the Cars' most 
                     popular songs: "My Best Friend's Girl," "Just What I Needed," 
                     "Drive," "Let's Go," and "Candy-O."  

                     The band was on hiatus for much of 1985 and 1986, during 
                     which time Orr recorded a solo album, The Lace (1986). His 
                     solo single, "Stay the Night," hit No. 24 on the singles charts 
                     in 1987. The Cars broke up in February 1988.  

                     Orr had been playing with a new group, Big People, which 
                     included Jeff Carlisi (formerly of .38 Special), Derek St. 
                     Holmes (Ted Nugent), and Rob Wilson. The group performed 
                     last May at Atlanta's Music Midtown festival and was 
                     scheduled to Perform Friday (Oct. 6) at The Tabernacle in 
                     Atlanta.  

                     Wanting to keep it private, Orr's family has asked Rhino 
                     Records, which has been reissuing some of the Cars' Elektra 
                     albums, not to make any comment.  

                                         AllStar News -- Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

 
NY TIMES
        
  
Benjamin Orr, Rock Musician Who Was
a Founder of the Cars, Dies at 53
  
          By NEIL STRAUSS 

          Benjamin Orr, a bassist, vocalist and founding member of the rock 
          group the Cars, died on Tuesday in his home in Atlanta. He was 53. 

          The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Billy Johnson, who manages Big 
          People, an Atlanta band for which Mr. Orr played bass. 

          Born Benjamin Orzechowski in Cleveland, Mr. Orr dropped out of high 
          school to lead a regional rock band, the Grasshoppers, and perform on a 
          television music show, "Upbeat." A local fixture, Mr. Orr was known for 
          his long hair, his good looks and his ability to fill any role in a rock band, 
          from vocalist to guitarist to drummer. The Grasshoppers broke up when 
          members were drafted during the Vietnam War. 

          The formation of the Cars was a long, slow metamorphosis. In the late 
          60's, Mr. Orr met a college dropout named Ric Ocasek at a party in 
          Ohio. They formed a duo and moved to Manhattan, Woodstock and 
          finally Boston in search of opportunities to make music. In Boston, they 
          met the keyboardist Greg Hawkes and released a folk-rock album as 
          Milkwood. 

          After becoming fixtures in local bars and cafes under various names and 
          line-ups, they added Elliott Easton on guitar and became a rock band 
          called Cap'n Swing. The final element materialized when they met David 
          Robinson, a former drummer with the Boston band the Modern Lovers. 
          Mr. Robinson renamed the band the Cars and helped the members 
          cement their sleek pop-art and futurism-influenced look and style.  

          In 1978, the band released its first album, "The Cars," on Elektra 
          Records. Mixing new-wave detachment, preening synthesizers, catchy 
          pop hooks and an arch take on classic boy-girl and teeny-bop themes, 
          "The Cars" landed three songs in the top 50: "Good Times Roll," "Just 
          What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl." For the next nine years, 
          the band sustained its success (thanks in part to adapting quickly to the 
          emerging medium of rock videos). Its nonstop string of hits peaked in 
          1984 with its highest-charting song, the ballad "Drive," achingly sung by 
          Mr. Orr. 

          As the group was beginning to break up, Mr. Orr released a solo album, 
          "The Lace," in 1986, which resulted in a top 40 hit, "Stay the Night."  

          Most recently, he played in a rock veteran amalgam called Big People 
          with Pat Travers, Jeff Carlisi of .38 Special, Derek St. Holmes of Ted 
          Nugent's band and Liberty DeVito of Billy Joel's band. The band was to 
          perform in Atlanta tonight; its manager said the show would go on, with a 
          tribute to Mr. Orr.

 
       
 

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                                Former Cars bassist/singer Ben Orr,
                                who was born Benjamin Orzechowski in Cleveland,
                                Ohio. Famous for their witty pop songs and innovative
                                videos, the Cars won the hearts of new wave fans until
                                their breakup in the late 1980s.
 
                                Orr had been working with Cars frontman Ric Ocasek for
                                nearly a decade, collaborating on various musical outings
                                and session work, before founding the band in Boston in
                                1976. They met keyboardist Greg Hawkes during a stint
                                with Milkwood, brought in Elliot Easton on guitar and David
                                Robinson was hired as drummer. 

                                The Cars began making demos in Ocasek's basement,
                                including an early cut of "Just What I Needed," which went
                                on to become a hit on Boston's WBCN. With their 1978
                                self-titled debut, the Cars scored nationwide success with
                                that single and another, "My Best Friend's Girl," in which
                                Ocasek and Orr shared vocal credits. The album went
                                platinum, and sold for so long that the release of its
                                follow-up, Candy-O was delayed. The latter album also
                                sold extremely well, charting with "Let's Go" and "It's All I
                                Can Do." Even when their third album, Panorama, hit
                                stores, The Cars was still on the charts. 

                                Ocasek continued doing production work for musicians
                                such as Suicide's Alan Vega, Bebe Buell and the New
                                Models. The mid-1980s were also good to the Cars,
                                leading them to score a string of hits such as "Shake It
                                Up," "You Might Think," "Magic," "Hello Again" and the
                                tender ballad "Drive," another song which included Orr on
                                vocals. The latter trio of tunes hailed from one of the
                                band's most successful albums, 1984's Heartbeat City.
                                By the end of the 1980s, personal strife began splitting up
                                the bandmates. Their last two hits were "Tonight She
                                Comes" and "You are the Girl," the latter of which charted
                                in 1987. Ocasek went on to produce a number of great
                                albums, including Weezer's debut, and has a new album
                                on the way; Orr had a hit in 1987 with "Stay The Night"
                                and released a solo album, The Lace, in 1986. 

                                                                -- Beth Winegarner 

 
 
  
 
 

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