Ric Ocasek and the long drive from Baltimore to the big stage
Best known for his quirky band The Cars's association with Live Aid, his musical journey began with a guitar at age 11
Ric Ocasek, who has died at the age of 75, was the distinctively gangly, carbon-haired lead singer of The Cars, who had success in Britain and especially in their native America in the late 1970s and early 1980s with quirky, post-punk singles such as My Best Friend’s Girl.
On both sides of the Atlantic, however, they were best known for their association with the Live Aid Ethiopian famine relief campaign in 1985, with which their ballad Drive – although used wholly out of context – became synonymous. This came about when Colin Dean, an engineer working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was editing harrowing images of the disaster, which would claim 1.2 million lives, for a short film shot by cameraman Philippe Billard.
That evening, Dean happened to listen in his hotel room to The Cars’ song, which had been a big hit in the US the previous year. Its lyrics – “Who’s gonna tell you when it’s too late / who’s gonna tell you things aren’t so great ... you can’t go on / thinkin’ nothing’s wrong” – suddenly appeared to him apposite and poignant when matched to the footage he was working on of starving infants in need of the wider world’s help...