The death of Ric Ocasek of The Cars on Sunday afternoon was a heartbreaker that brought forth an outpouring of fond remembrances. Here’s mine.
Christmas, 1984. I was seven-going-on-eight and just starting to be old enough to form my own opinions on music. These opinions usually involved asking my parents to put a certain record on or change the station on the car radio; Mom and Dad were the gatekeepers of all things musical. Then Christmas came around and the gates were thrown open.
My Uncle Michael, ever the tech-and-gadget-guy, gave me a Sony Walkman for Christmas. And it was the model that had a radio tuner AND a cassette player. Freedom! I could listen to what I wanted to, when I wanted to. It would be bad form, of course, to give a child such a gift and not give them a cassette to play; Uncle Michael chose Heartbeat City by The Cars.
I can remember sliding the cassette into the deck and pressing play. I knew these songs! They’d been on the radio all year. And there was the song with the video on MTV where the singer turned into a fly and buzzed around. I was in heaven, flipping from one side of the tape to the other and back again.
And that, I think, is a prime example of the brilliance of Ric Ocasek and The Cars. If you’re writing songs that are catchy enough for a seven-year-old to put your albums on a loop and keep coming back those albums as a teen and a young adult and a middle-aged man, then you’re writing damn good songs. It’s no surprise they’re enshrined in Cleveland.
Heartbroken to have lost Ric Ocasek, but my heart is full each time I listen to Heartbeat City.