“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
“The grand room suited Paul, the cream-colored walls with gold accents a fine contrast to his dark good looks. I felt a wave of la douleur, one of the many French words that do not translate into English well, which means ‘the pain of wanting someone you cannot have.'”
Today they announced that The Cars would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the “Class of 2018.”
I’ve been anticipating it, of course; it’s been on my mind for months. I’m not very well versed on all the ins and outs of the Rock Hall in general; never paid a whole lot of attention over the years because I like what I like and don’t really care what awards my favorites garner. When I joined The Cars world it became a ‘thing’ for me to put on the watchlist, because the guys were eligible in 2003 and nominated in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and as fans we wanted them IN. So I researched a bit; tried to figure out how it mattered overall, and how much it mattered to me. I love the band and I believe they deserve to have their name on that roster, for those who think the roster is important. But really…
Whenever anything with the band happens, a lot of my heart celebrates and gets so happy and excited, but I also get so achy, thinking of you and knowing you’re gone and unable to put your living fingerprint on all of this. Benjamin, would you care? If you were still here, how much would it matter to you? That’s what I keep thinking about… and so I speculate and ponder and take my best guesses about how you would feel.
People talk about what a private person you were. Shy and reserved offstage, somewhat of a ‘closed book’ about your innermost thoughts and feelings. Genuinely humble and unpretentious; able to separate yourself from your rockstar life. I think about you off in the woods, fishing and hunting, or out on your boat, breathing in the tangy air. Your quiet, solitary pursuits… but that wasn’t all of who you were.
You were a Cleveland native. You loved your city and your hometown fans; your loyalty was obvious and enduring. And you are adored and respected by your town. What a delight it would have been for you to come home, triumphant! The enthusiastic celebrations in your honor would have pleased you very much and overwhelmed your humble heart, I think.
From your youngest days you were making music, but it wasn’t enough to just play it, you wanted others to hear it. You dropped out of high school to pursue your dreams, leaving your home and relationships behind in the quest for that break through… for the opportunity to find an outlet for your talent. Your abilities were all over the board: that voice that could move mountains, those talented hands. You played drums, rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards… you did whatever it took to be on the stage. There was music in you that needed to get out.
And there was a performer’s soul in you that needed your essence to be heard.
You loved touring; being on the road. You put your heart into your shows, and you made time to connect with your fans. You played right up until a week before your death, until your body said ‘no more.’ You went out doing what you loved to do.
To be recognized by a large group of your peers, after all of these years, for your influence on music history and the part you played in the legacy of rock and roll… I think you would have loved it. I can just see your humble smile, with that little air of surprise and delight. I can imagine the deep satisfaction radiating from you. Ah Benjamin, how I would love for you to be here! To have one more moment in the sun before it sets on The Cars.
Seeing the induction will be bittersweet, Benjamin. Your name will be mentioned, and lots of attention drawn to your amazing talents and irreplaceable contributions; with any luck your voice will ring out over the crowd. I will be so happy that the world will have their eyes and ears on your music, just how you liked it.
C’mon, do I even need to say it? Benjamin’s voice is… everything.
Beautiful to the ears. Wonderful in vocal range. He opens his mouth and easily creates those lilting harmonies, or those deep warm tones. Dramatic, melodic, seductive. Full of disdain or smoldering with emotion. Exuding confidence. Descending and weaving and pressing close…
I could go on and on, gushing about the mellifluous sounds that come out of that man, but I promised myself I wouldn’t. This is supposed to be just straightforward research. As you know, I love to have my little rows of facts and dates and figures; they make me so happy. Pulling data together and organizing it into a meaningful, structured presentation gives me a geeky thrill.
I’m a nerd… I know this.
So I decided I wanted to see a list of all of the songs Benjamin sang in his far-too-short career. Typing it into a single column in chronological order triggered a bout of pinball-machine-analysis and deep, varied speculations, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. And as satisfying as it was for me to see the list in a simple Word doc, I decided to stretch myself into the world of designing ‘infographics’ with this article. Bear with me, they are a little basic, but I wanted to add some color.
(And did you like my title? “Vocal List”… “vocalist”… see what I did there? Haha. Okay, okay… moving on…)
Before we dive in… some little disclaimers:
This blog post is a work in progress.
During the Milkwood and Ocasek & Orr years with Ric, the two harmonized and shared vocals so often that I decided not to list every single song they recorded, but instead only listed the ones where Benjamin handles the lion’s share of the vocals.
I believe Ocasek & Orr recorded a version of “Start It All Again,” and I have always assumed that Benjamin sang the lead on it (as he did with Cap’n Swing), but I didn’t list it under O&O since I’ve not actually heard that version (but boy, would I love to!).
I understand that Benjamin did some background vocals for other artists, but I haven’t been diligent about making notes when I come across that information. I’ll start a file to collect those notes, so hit me up with links, please and thank you.
And again, I am only listing songs where he sang lead or the majority of the vocals…
…except for “Since I Held You” and “You Are The Girl.” Wikipedia gave Benjamin a shared vocal credit on those, so I added them, too.
I’ve only addressed songs that I’ve actually heard or can otherwise verify the existence of, but as always, I obviously don’t know everything. If I’m missing information PLEASE let me know!
Bob Seger is definitely one of those artists I didn’t appreciate until later in my life. His achy lyrics fill me with longing for the innocence and freedom of those younger days… now that those younger days are a ways behind me.
Driving home in the dark tonight, I listened to this song over and over — particularly this second verse. I couldn’t help but think of Benjamin, and wonder if that is how he felt in the late 80s and early 90s, when things seemed to fall apart for him… when he disappeared for a while, and then started up with the Orr band… long before the joy of Big People and Julie.
Of course, I have no clue. Just another one of my speculations…
“The years rolled slowly past and I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home, and I
Guess I lost my way… There were oh-so-many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searching…
Searching for shelter again and again”
“Scott had no sense of age with women,” she recalled. “He liked kissing young women and he liked kissing old women. The only difference was that he wouldn’t ask the older ones for their telephone number or which hotel they were staying at.”