Band: The Cars
Benjamin Orr died aged fifty three on 4th October 2000 at home in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. The previous April Benjamin had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and hospitalized. He did, however, continue to perform with the band Big People throughout that summer at music festivals and state fairs and reunited with the Cars one last time in Atlanta, for an interview that was included in the Rhino Records concert video 'The Cars Live'.
Benjamin's final public appearance was on 27th September, 2000, in a Big People concert in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A. Benjamin Orr was survived by his son, Ben.
Band-mate Ric Ocasek wrote and recorded the song "Silver", which was his musical tribute to Benjamin Orr. It appeared on Ric's 2005 solo album, Nexterday. The Cars reunited ten years after Benjamin Orr's death and released their seventh studio album called 'Move Like This', in May 2011 and Benjamin Orr was given commemoration in the liner notes with "Ben, your spirit was with us on this one."
Benjamin Orr was born in Lakewood, Ohio, U.S.A. to parents of Polish, Russian, Czechoslovak and German descent who actively supported Ben's musical aspirations and he became proficient in several instruments including the guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, and drums.
Known locally as "Benny 11 Letters", Ben grew up in Lakewood and Parma, Ohio, and attended Valley Forge High School before joining local band the Grasshoppers as lead singer and guitarist in 1964. In 1965, the Grasshoppers released two singles on the Sunburst label: "Mod Socks" and "Pink Champagne (and Red Roses)", the latter written by Ben Orr. The Grasshoppers were also the house band on the Big 5 Show, a musical variety television show produced by WEWS-TV in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.. The Grasshoppers dissolved in 1966, when two of the band members were drafted into the U.S. Army, after which Ben Orr joined the band Mixed Emotions, and later the Colours.
Later, Ben Orr was drafted as well, although he received a deferment after approximately a year and a half in the Army.
Benjamin Orr first met Ric Ocasek in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960s after Ric saw Benjamin Orr performing with the Grasshoppers on the Big 5 Show. A few years later, Benjamin Orr moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he and Ric Ocasek formed a musical partnership that would continue in various incarnations, until the break up of the Cars in 1988. After moving to Boston, Massachusetts, the two formed a folk band called Milkwood with guitarist James Goodkind.
In 1973, the group released one album, How's the Weather?, which failed to chart. Remaining in Boston, Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr then formed another band, Richard and the Rabbits, featuring keyboardist Greg Hawkes, followed by another band, Cap'n Swing, which included guitarist Elliot Easton. After the group broke up in 1976, the three of them along with Hawkes and drummer David Robinson formed the Cars.
As a member of the Cars, Benjamin Orr sang lead vocal on some of the band's best known songs, including their first top 40 hit "Just What I Needed", "Let's Go," and "Drive", their highest charting single in America.
Benjamin Orr released his only solo album, The Lace, in 1986. He co-wrote the music and lyrics with his long time girlfriend, Diane Grey Page, who also sang backing vocals and appeared on the album's back cover. The album featured a Top 40 pop hit, "Stay the Night". The song was also a Top 10 album rock hit. An accompanying music video for the song was in heavy rotation on MTV. A second single, "Too Hot to Stop", was also released, but did not chart in the Billboard Hot 100 though it reached number twenty-five in the rock charts.
Benjamin Orr continued to work with the Cars for one more album, 'Door to Door', and tour before the group disbanded in 1988, after which he and the other members pursued solo work. Sometime in the mid-1990s, Benjamin Orr recorded tracks with guitarist John Kalishes for an unreleased follow-up to The Lace. From 1998 until his death in 2000, Ben performed with his own band ORR and two side bands, Voices of Classic Rock, and cover band Big People.