Today is the birthday of 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
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.
Other birthdays: Billy Henderson (Spinners), 64; Marinue Gerritsen (Golden
Earring), 51; Barbra Mason, 50; Kurtis Blow, 48; and Whitney Houston, 34.