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Benjamin Orr

Discussion in '80's Music' started by ladyislingering, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Often overlooked as a solo artist, Benjamin Orr (1947-2000) is best known for being one of the main vocalists, and the bassist for 80s new wave group The Cars.

    [​IMG]

    (Photo restoration by the Lady.
    Photo circa 1979.)

    Benjamin Orzechowski (nicknamed "Benny 11-Letters" by his friends), born in Lakewood, Ohio, was of Russian and Czechoslovakian heritage; from an early age his parents encouraged musical activity to which he exercised in learning guitar, bass, drums, and even the keyboard. From time to time he entertained his family with impressions of Elvis Presley.

    In 1965, when he was just 18 years old, he and his band, The Grasshoppers, released two singles on a lesser-known label called Sunburst. "Mod Socks" being the name of one; "Pink Champagne (And Red Roses)" which was written by Benny himself, was the other. During this time he also appeared as a session musician for local variety show "Upbeat!"

    In 1967, the band Benny dropped out of Valley Forge High School to persue would soon have three of its members drafted to war - including Benny, who, after approximately 18 months, received a deferment and returned home.

    Benny met Ric Ocasek in Cleveland around 1970. Ric was new to the area since his father had just relocated the family. Ric and Ben, along with two other musicians, formed a band called Milkwood, who released an album called "How's the Weather" in 1972. The record was, commercially, a flop.

    However, they continued to tour with the likes of MC5 and the Stooges. After a short stint in New York City proved unsuccessful, Ric had an idea.

    Benny and Ric moved to Boston in hopes of finding greater success on the music scene.

    Soon afterward Benny, Ric, and newcomer Elliot Easton (who would someday be lead guitarist for The Cars) formed a group called Cap n' Swing and frequented nightclubs in Boston. This group disbanded in 1975 (other musicians in the group have long since been unnamed) leaving the three core Cars members to soon meet Greg Hawkes, who they had initially turned away for Cap n' Swing, but recruited into their new group.

    For a short time the four performed as Richard and the Rabbits; shortly after meeting with drummer David Robinson in 1976, these five men called themselves the Cars in 1977.

    From their inception to their disbanding in 1987, the lineup remained consistent. Ben's vocals can be heard on several Cars hits (Ric Ocasek has said himself that any time he needed superior vocals to accompany the songs he wrote, he asked Ben to do it.) including "Just What I Needed", "Moving in Stereo", "Drive", "Bye Bye Love", and "Double Trouble".

    By the mid-80s Ric had embarked on a journey of solo projects; Ben would have his time in 1986 when he released "The Lace". While the record was not commercially successful and has long since been forgotten in time, its songs were very similar to the sound that made The Cars successful. Lyrics to "The Lace" were written by Benny and his then-girlfriend Diane Grey Page. It spawned one popular single, "Stay the Night", which charted in the top 40 that year and won Ben an ASCAP award for its video.


    Ben's vocals and bass appeared on some tracks from Ric's "This Side of Paradise" album; he was also a session musician for Joni Mitchell's "Misses" and "Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm".

    A follow-up single called "Too Hot to Stop" was also released; video in tow, similar to "Stay the Night". Songs were written and recorded for a second album during the 90s, but were never officially released. "The Lace" continues to be a rare find, but was re-released by Wounded Bird records in 2006.

    By 1987 tensions were running high between the members of The Cars; they recorded their last album "Door to Door", and called it quits. Ric Ocasek would remain one of Ben's closest friends throughout the remainder of his life.

    Up til the time of becoming ill with pancreatic cancer, Ben continued to do what he loved. He was part of a few groups during the 90s: Orr, Big People, and The Voices of Classic Rock. In April of 2000, he was hospitalized, but continued to make appearances in moderately sized venues, determined to play music until he could no longer function.

    On September 27th, 2000, he appeared in Anchorage, Alaska with his group Big People. On October 3rd, he passed away at the home of Julie Snider, a close friend of his, who lived in Atlanta, Georgia. He left behind one son (whose age is uncertain) from a previous marriage and his beloved golden retrievers.

    In 2005 Ric Ocasek wrote "Silver" for his new record "Nexterday", which he dedicated to Ben.


    A little personal input:

    The tender little clip above breaks my heart every time. I've been a fan of Ben's since I was a little girl; I was heartbroken when I heard that he'd passed away but have always hoped that there's some way in this galaxy that the souls of those who have passed away should be aware of the happiness their legacies have brought to people.

    He was a friend of many, and a very well-liked, charming individual with many genuine talents.

    Though very little is publicly known about Ben, his music (with The Cars, and solo) is a tremendously beautiful thing.

    Thoughts/videos/pictures/shared info I might have missed is greatly welcome.
     
  2. Fever

    Fever Senior Member

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    I was so looking forward to some great music from Big People
    The band also had Jeff Carlisi of 38 Special,Derek St.Holmes from Ted Nugent's band,Liberty Devitto,who played with Billy Joel and Pat Travers.
     
  3. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    True. Quite a great lineup; Ben was definitely amongst all kinds of excellent people in his time.

    I think one of the groups Ben was touring with still does shows from time to time, but I could be mistaken. Such things usually don't make the news, and there hasn't really been an active fan base or forum for Ben/The Cars/other projects Ben was involved with, in so many years.

    I still find it admirable that he refused to just lay down and die.
     
  4. METALPRIEST

    METALPRIEST Senior Member

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    A Legend!!! :bow:
     
  5. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Right on, MP.

    And a total fox!
     
  6. Astrid Kirchherr65

    Astrid Kirchherr65 Classic 60's Chick

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    :grinthumb Basically when Ric keft The Cars and Ben Orr went solo///there WAS no 'Cars' left imo

    They WERE the best part of the band,
    I saw them several times in Kenmore Square in Boston...as a poor student of Boston University in 80's

    Ben was the lead singer on all my favorite cars tunes:grinthumb

    Very talented guy..very sexy too :flirt

    R.I.P. Ben !:cheers2


    Lucky Lollipop lol...:D
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  7. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Very cool! I've always heard they had a bit of a boring stage presence, but I think that's mostly a guy thing - girls were sure to be drooling too much to care what the band was doing! :flirt
     
  8. Astrid Kirchherr65

    Astrid Kirchherr65 Classic 60's Chick

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    Well , I saw The Police then too and other then STING bouncing around..they weren't so ...peppy either ?

    lol

    I don't remember them being boring ? I THINK they had the 'I'm TOO cool' thing which at that time WAS cool lol:cheers2
     
  9. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Oh myyyyyy. Sting was (and still is) quite a fox!

    I agree with the "too cool" thing. They were a bunch of cool guys. Cool guys that did too much heroin, but cool guys nonetheless.
     
  10. Astrid Kirchherr65

    Astrid Kirchherr65 Classic 60's Chick

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    Yep NUTTIN cool about Heroin ..bad bad stuff !\\

    Yeah Sting is a tasty man lol..he improves with age :grinthumb
     

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