After appearing on the ballot twice in recent years, Ric Ocasek and company were included this morning (December 13) on a 2018 roster of inductees that includes Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Award for Early Influence).
The Cars will be inducted in the “Performer” category.
The 33rd-annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony takes place on April 14 in Cleveland, and will be broadcast on HBO and SiriusXM. Bands and artists are eligible for the Hall 25 years after the release of their first commerical recording. This year’s inductees were chosen, according to the Rock Hall, “by more than 900 voters, as well as the aggregate results of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s online fan vote. The top five artists from the fan vote comprised the Fans’ Ballot that was tallied alongside the other ballots to determine the 2018 Inductees.”
This latest Rock Hall ballot included Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine, Depeche Mode, Judas Priest, Kate Bush and others.
In addition to Ocasek, the inducted members of The Cars include Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, David Robinson, and Benjamin Orr. The Rock Hall describes the band as “hook-savvy with the perfect combo of new wave and classic rock,” while adding that “you can’t help but sing along to The Cars.”
The band’s magnetism and intellectual arrangements resonated with an audience ready to leave the left of the dial underground and cement themselves into the mainstream.
Founded in Boston in 1976 by singer-guitarist-songwriter Ric Ocasek and singer-bassist Benjamin Orr, the Cars were the ultimate New Wave dream machine: a hook-savvy super-charged quintet that fused 60s pop, 70s glam and avant-rock minimalism into a decade of dashboard-radio nirvana.
Their epic ride of 13 Top 40 singles across six classic studio albums — including four straight Top 10 LPs – drove the fury and intellectual adventure of punk rock out of the underground, firmly and forever into the American mainstream. Former hippie-folk compatriots, Ocasek and Orr were a natural yin-yang; Orr polished the terse, melodic grip and experimental vigor in Ocasek’s songs with vocal-dreamboat magnetism. Guitarist Elliot Easton’s rockabilly and surf-rock flourishes, Greg Hawkes’ ingenious keyboard science and drummer David Robinson’s futurist-Charlie Watts backbeat completed the design, already honed to maximum appeal on the Cars’ 1978 self-titled debut album. That record’s first three tracks, “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed,” were all hit singles. Heartbeat City was the Cars’ commercial apex, a Number 3 album that featured the ravishing ballad, “Drive,” sung by Orr with broken-heart perfection.
The group broke up in the late 80s. But the Cars’ visionary bravado was evident in the 90s alternative-rock boom. Nirvana played “My Best Friend’s Girl” at their last-ever show in 1994, while Ocasek became a producer-of-choice for younger bands such as Weezer and Bad Religion. Orr’s death in 2000 seemed to end any hope for a Cars reunion — until 2011, when the surviving members issued Move Like This, a new studio album that proved the Cars always sound like this year’s model, in every decade.
Featured Cars image by Jeff Albertson, via the Rock Hall.