Benjamin Orr (1947-2000) was a bass guitar player and one of the lead vocalists for the New Wave band The Cars. He was born Benjamin Orzechowski on September 8, 1947 in Lakewood, Ohio to Russian and Czechoslovakian parents. He grew up in Cleveland, and dropped out of high school to pursue music full time in a local band, The Grasshoppers. Unlike many other musicians' families, his parents were both singers and actively supported his musical endeavors. He became proficient in several instruments including the guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, and drums, yet his talents in The Cars were mostly in playing the bass and lead vocals for several of their most popular hits, including "Just What I Needed", "Let's Go", and "Drive".
By the mid-70's Orr was working in a Boston night club band, Cap'n Swing, with other members including future Cars frontman Ric Ocasek and guitarist Elliot Easton. When the group broke up in 1975, the three of them joined up with the other two members to form The Cars by 1976.
With several top hits and multi-platinum albums under their belts, Orr in 1986 issued his only solo project, The Lace, where he co-wrote all music and lyrics, and included one Top-40 hit, "Stay The Night." The album had a very familiar rhythm and feel of The Cars but was also free of Ocasek's frequently cryptic lyrics.
After the break up The Cars, Orr as well as the other members pursued solo work. From 1998 he led three bands, including Orr, The Voices of Classic Rock, and Big People.
In April 2000 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, yet continued to perform in concerts with his all-star band, Big People, at summer music festivals and state fairs. He also reunited with all the former members of The Cars for the only time in Atlanta, Georgia for an interview used in a Rhino Records video and DVD of a German concert performed in 1978, "The Cars Live".
His final scheduled appearance was on September 27, 2000, and he died at his home in Atlanta, on Tuesday night, October 3, 2000 at the age of 53, surrounded by his fiancee and Big People band members. The bands Orr and Big People still perform his classic Cars hits.
Benjamin Orr also played with Ric Ocasek as a duo.
Album discography The Lace (Elektra Records, 1986)