With the passing of Ric Ocasek on September 15, the world has gone into mourning. Rock legends and up-and-coming musicians (and everyone in between) have been paying tribute to him all week long, in all sorts of meaningful ways: posting photos, tweeting remembrances, and singing his songs in live sets across the country. Not only do they celebrate the man they loved and admired, but they give us a gift in revealing more about who Ric really was. I am deeply appreciative.
Seeing all of the headlines day after day, my sixteen-year-old daughter remarked, “Wow. I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal.” You see, here in my house, my family obviously knows about my fixation with Ben and The Cars, and they lovingly humor me about it, but they think it’s just my ‘little thing.’ They don’t know how important The Cars have been to the world at large, and none of them really understand how much the band matters to me. They don’t get that it is more than just an obsession or a hobby. Ben, Ric, David, Greg, Elliot… these guys move me. Their music is part of my brain matter, intimately inseparable from my emotions and memories. Their existence is important to my existence. And when they are no longer leaving fingerprints in this world, I feel it deep down inside. Not many of my peeps around here get that.
And so it has been all the more precious to me to see how the Cars fans have come together over the news that Ric is gone.
A few years ago someone coined the term ‘Fanorama’ to encompass the members of the Facebook groups and Twitter pages (and anywhere on social media, really) who regularly check in to geek out about The Cars. Over the years I’ve developed many solid relationships inside the Fanorama; people who I may or may not have ever met in ‘real life’ but that are part of my daily landscape. And while I’ve long considered them friends, I believe that Ric’s death has made us a family.
When someone you love dies you automatically want to go to others who also loved that person and express your shock and sadness. You want to share the memories and pictures, you want to cry together and tell of regrets and give words of hope. It’s a natural human response, right? “Misery loves company.” And you bond as brothers and sisters in your grief.
And that’s what we did, our Fanorama. When Ric died, we virtually looked at each other in disbelief and said, “tell me it’s not true!” We collapsed on each other’s shoulders and cried together in grief. We gave strength and we took strength and we squeezed each other’s hands and asked, “how are you holding up?” We wrapped our arms around each other and held on tight and assured each other, “it’s going to be okay.” And we shared memories, music, stories, artwork, awe, laughter, frustration, gratitude. I felt it — I still feel it — every time I get on social media, the healing comfort of my dear Cars family.
I find that in the midst of this devastating loss there is so much love. It’s a beautiful thing.
So many offerings I’ve seen and heard this week have helped me, but I think this video comes the closest to encompassing my emotions in a visual form. I woke up the morning after Ric passed away feeling confusion and achy longing and at a bit of a loss. My FB feed was flooded, but this post from Becky B caught my eye. As I watched the incredible video she created, the tears came again, but as much pain as I felt watching it, it was different somehow. I saw the celebration of Ric and Ben. Her tribute skillfully addressed the hurt and the healing and the hope, all at the same time.
The song choice, the photos and live footage, the spiritual aura… I’m not sure how to explain my impressions. I’ll just let you watch it. Be sure to grab some tissue.
I send out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Becky. I can’t imagine how late she stayed up the night Ric left us in order to create this tribute, but I’m so glad she did. It went straight to my heart.
And thank you, my Fanorama family. Being able to stay in touch with you this week has been such a consolation to me, and I know you are comforting one another, too. We’ll see each other through this, like a family should.
“The time with Ben before and while he was ill were some of the most important, exciting, life- and spiritual-expanding moments I’ve ever shared with anyone. Ben taught us so much about life, in the way he went through the process of cancer treatment and in day-to-day life. He was also an absolutely fantastic father to his son, and loved him more than he ever loved anyone.” — Julie Snider-Mennie, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, page 192
Silver (written by Ric Ocasek, ©2005)
Appearing as track five on Ric’s 2005 solo album Nexterday, “Silver” was apparently written as Ric’s tribute to Benjamin. Greg Hawkes played the keyboards.
You were my silver, you were my gold
You were all the things that can’t be told.
You were my star falling through the night
You were the one that showed me grand delight
I can’t see you, but I need you, you’re gone… yeah, you’re gone… yeah, you’re gone away
You were my right hand, you were my friend
You were always strong until the end
You were my good time, you were my rave
You’re the one that always set the stage
What I once knew, now I miss you, you’re gone… yeah, you’re gone… yeah, you’re gone away
Now I spend my lonely nights wishing you were here to make things right
And turn my darkness into light
‘Cause you were my party, you were my tea
You’re the one that had some faith in me
You’re what I once knew, now I miss you, you’re gone… you’re gone… you’re gone away
You were my good time, you were my rave… you’re the one that always set the stage….
The week’s podcast gets an extra shot of rock and roll with our very special guest, Mr. Kirk Johnston! Kirk has long been known in the Fanorama as a highly talented vocalist and bass player. He is beloved for his album, Full Circle, featuring beautiful versions of some of Benjamin Orr’s best known songs. He further won the hearts of fans with his generous work for the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation in Benjamin’s name.
In this episode, Dave and Donna explore Kirk’s musical background, when he got hooked on The Cars, and how Benjamin Orr shaped and influenced the course of Kirk’s musical career. Kirk gives Ben all the credit for stretching the boundaries of Kirk’s talent, from pushing him to be a better bassist to teaching him to sing, to being the compass guiding Kirk toward a radical change in his sound.
From there they dive into the making of the Full Circle EP and its progressive expansion, covering aspects like:
- what the neighbors heard during the recording process
- how to NOT sound like Benjamin Orr
- getting permission to cover those iconic songs
- creating unique videos
- the gentle fingerprints of his wife, Kari
With Kirk currently remastering and re-releasing music from his career with the hard-rocking Texas band Snowblind Revival, Dave and Donna walk him through the rollercoaster of the group’s heyday and what led to bringing the music back in 2018.
Featuring the late Dennis Clevenger on vocals, drummer Wes Korner, bassist Nathan de los Santos, and Kirk on lead guitar, the four friends went from high school jam sessions to playing gigs all across the United States. After being on the verge of a record deal that was never realized, the band imploded and relationships fell apart. Kirk shares how amends were made, the tragedy of Dennis’s early death, and some of the parallels between Dennis’s story and Benjamin Orr.
Never one to do a project without a heartfelt purpose, Kirk explains his motivation for releasing this music now: to offer help and healing to those struggling with thoughts of hopelessness, and to solidify a creative and financial legacy for Dennis’s young son.
We highly encourage you to check out Snowblind Revival’s incredible music, watch videos of their performance, and support Kirk’s vision by visiting www.snowblindrevival.com. And be sure to follow Kirk and the Snowblind Revival project on Twitter, too!
The episode closes out with Kirk’s amazing version of Benjamin’s hit, “Stay the Night,” showcasing a swaying tropical sound and a little Texas flair.
Don’t forget… Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast (individually we’re @night_spots and @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!
Don’t wait another minute to get to know Kirk. Click below and enjoy!
Regarding honoring Benjamin Orr during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: “I feel like he definitely was represented. I think we all made mention. Just because we didn’t do ‘Drive,’ I don’t think there’s any disrespect meant towards Ben. If anything, I almost think the opposite, that as far as Ben’s vocal there, you can’t really replace the guy, so why attempt it?” — Greg Hawkes, NiGHT THOUGHTS: The Cars Podcast Episode 31, June 8, 2018