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.