“We were just beginning to explore new ideas as far as writing together, and unfortunately we never had the opportunity, because within the year Ben was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We lost him October of 2000… What a talent. As Liberty always said, he’s the rock star of the band, but he was natural. He didn’t try; he didn’t have to try. He had a voice that was just unbelievable, and he’d just step up to a microphone and just have this glow about him, you know what I’m saying? It was just magical.” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Craig Garber and Everyone Loves Guitar, November 26, 2020 (at about 12:47)
“So, first day, I remember Ben coming to my house. Somebody picked him up at the airport, and I opened the door and there’s Benjamin Orr in all his glory and his … whatever… and I said, ‘God,’ I said, ‘you’re Ben Orr!’ and he goes, ‘So I’ve been told, pardner.’ He was a character (laughing).” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Craig Garber and Everyone Loves Guitar, November 26, 2020 (at about 8:44)
“[Ben] was not [an introvert]… I like to think more of Ben as, he spoke when he had something to say, which sometimes comes off as being shy or aloof… I’m not so sure, and I guess technically you could say that somebody can walk onstage and perform like he did and still be an introvert; maybe that’s their release. But I saw when Ben was sick, and we were touring and he was battling his cancer, and he would spend time talking to people who had either battled cancer themselves, were just curious, were going through some other trauma in their life, and Ben would take enormous amounts of time being very candid with these folks and talking to them. That’s not an introvert. An introvert runs and hides…
“He was a bit of a quiet person [but] he was very forthcoming with people, loved the human contact… The only thing that would maybe have given you the impression that he was an introvert was that he wasn’t a man of many words, but when he said something it meant something.” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview on Madame Perry’s Salon, January 27, 2020 (at about 8:20)
“We were all obviously devastated for Ben, but we learned a lot of lessons that last summer. He’d already been diagnosed, and check this out. The doctor says you got three or four months, and we’re not knowing what to say, let alone how to ask the question, and finally it’s kind of like, ‘well…’ Before we could say anything, Ben said, ‘Well, start booking as many gigs as possible. I’m going out the way I came in, doing what I love.’ And it was so inspirational.” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Craig Garber and Everyone Loves Guitar, November 26, 2020 (at about 14:10)
“Ben Orr was our rock star. When he sang ‘Drive’ the girls just swooned… What a great artist he was.” — Liberty DeVitto, long-time drummer for Billy Joel and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Modern Drummer Magazine, July 16, 2020
“I can remember one time, Ben, Derek, and I going into a dive blues club in Atlanta and the band asked us if we wanted to sit in. When we asked Ben if he wanted to do it he just said, ‘I’m a bass player, not just that guy in The Cars!’ So, we went up there and played and Ben was fantastic!” — Liberty DeVitto, drummer with Big People, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken
When I asked Liberty if there was a special story as to why Ben was getting ready to lick him, Liberty replied, “He loved me!!” LOL
“Benny called me one day to tell me that he had a new band called The Cars and he was now calling himself Ben Orr. Because of our friendship, I played their record. What I didn’t realize was that this was a Hall-of-Fame-caliber band that would change the world. Whenever he came to town, he would come in for an interview on my radio show and we always found time to share a meal or two. I always got to eat. Benny basically just signed autographs and had his picture taken.
“In many ways, he never left Cleveland, returning to sing on local records to raise money for different causes, always giving a shout-out to his hometown and never forgetting where he came from.” — David Spero, artist manager, former Cleveland DJ, and former associate producer of Upbeat!, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, by Joe Milliken
Interesting note: This photo of David and Ben was taken in April, 1985, when Ben was in Cleveland during the C.A.R.E.S. Sessions to record “Eyes of the Children.” Click on the footage below to catch a bit of his involvement in that project:
“I will tell you that he was such a champ, and he’s forever my hero because he always got up on that stage, and he was feeling really bad… Everybody helped to make sure that Ben was comfortable and had what he needed. It was an awful, stressful time. And it was a very sad time. And yet, personally, that was the most loving relationship I ever had — and not just between me and Ben, but between Ben and I and those wonderful guys and their wonderful wives. You just felt the charge of love in my house…
“Once Ben was sick, everybody knew the time was short so nobody wanted to miss a moment, and we didn’t. One year… it felt like a lifetime. I didn’t need to really know more about Ben than I did because the time was so precious and condensed, and… he was just a great man… an unbelievably talented, wonderful man.”
— Julie Snider, Benjamin’s fiancée, Benjamin Orr’s Friends and Family Tribute Compilation, recorded September 19, 2020
On the first time he saw Ben play: “I can remember seeing Ben’s and Ric’s names around town as another band, Cap’n Swing, but it wasn’t the same places that I was going to at the time, so I hadn’t gotten to see them play live. Then a mutual friend of mine and Ric’s, Maxanne Sartori, had mentioned them to me, and she thought they were good, so I went and saw Cap’n Swing at Paul’s Mall. They were kind of a mish-mash group of people, and when they came out, Ben was wearing these white satin karate pajamas and flip flops!
“I remember thinking, ‘What kind of look is this?’ Ben only sang and didn’t play the bass, but I did notice right away how great his voice was! The music was quirky-pop sounding, and not really coming from a hip place but a more nerdy place, so I wasn’t overly impressed.” — David Robinson, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken, p. 70.
“A man’s man, Ben smoked Marlboro cigarettes, drank alcohol, drove a four-wheel-drive SUV, and chopped wood at his house in the mountains of Vermont. But when he went on stage in his black leather pants, brightly colored shirt, long black trench coat, and black cowboy boots, he drove the ladies wild. I’d look out into the crowd when we played ‘Drive’ and watch all the women smile at Ben, hanging on to every word he was singing.” — Liberty DeVitto, 2020, Liberty: Life, Billy, and the Pursuit of Happiness
On Ben joining The Mixed Emotions: “When he first showed up to our rehearsal I was really impressed. I said to myself, ‘Now here’s someone who has got it all. The musical talent, good looks, and the personality.’ Well, he was cool with the band and joined right then and there.” — Chris Kamburoff, former Mixed Emotions band mate, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken
On Ben’s diagnosis and death: “That was crazy. I went to see him. He was pretty strong; I have to say that. Very strong, considering he knew very well that he didn’t have very many days to live. It was very sad. It’s hard to even comprehend, because a year before that, there was nothing wrong. So no one really expected that.
“To make it more sad, he had a little boy who was about four at that point, and when I went to see Ben in Atlanta, his little boy was there, too. It was sad for me, because I have kids, like, ‘Oh my God, the poor little kid doesn’t even barely know what’s gonna happen.’ I guess I didn’t really believe it. I was asking some people around, ‘Well, how long do you think?’ They were going, ‘A few weeks.’ I said, ‘Nah. You gotta be kidding.’ But there’s no way to get out from under pancreatic cancer, from what I understand. It’s a horrible thing to have.” — Ric Ocasek, Magnet Magazine interview, 2005