Born: September 8, 1947
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
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
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,
MTV-- Sorelle Saidman, with additional reporting
by Kara Manning
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
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
Orr, Rock Musician Who Was
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
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
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
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
tribute to Mr. Orr.