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Watch Ric Ocasek’s Inspiring Solo Acoustic “Drive” Performance

Ric Ocasek of The Cars performing in CBGB on September 29, 2005 in New York City.
Ric Ocasek, 2005 (Image credit: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

Born on this day, new wave pioneer Ric Ocasek (1944-2019) was the principal songwriter for the Cars, performing vocal and electric guitar duties with the band since their formation in Boston in 1976.

Voted Best New Artist by Rolling Stone readers in 1978, the band’s eponymous debut album released that year was a multi-platinum success and spawned the top 40 hit singles "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl."

The Cars' eponymous debut album artwork

(Image credit: Columbia House)

Following their swift success, the Cars continued to knock hits out of the park thanks to Ocasek and bandmate Benjamin Orr’s (1947-2000) outstanding talent for writing instantly memorable songs.

Remaining at the cutting edge of musical style, the Cars steadily evolved their sound throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s from punk-inspired upbeat minimalism to synth-laden rock balladry.

As the age of MTV unfolded, the Cars scored their most successful hit yet with “Drive” in 1984. Produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange (AC/DC, Foreigner, Muse) the top ten smash was taken from their highly successful fifth studio album Heartbeat City.

Ric Ocasek of The Cars performing in CBGB on September 29, 2005 in New York City.

Ric Ocasek, 2005 (Image credit: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

While the more familiar album version of “Drive” (opens in new tab) sung by bassist/vocalist Orr boasts a relatively complex production resplendent with drums and synths, in this solo 12-string acoustic guitar performance Ocasek demonstrates how his song can be rendered equally emotive when stripped to its bare essentials.

It also goes to show how the limitless possibilities of a minimal chord structure can be tapped into in order to write a song that touches millions.

You can easily play along in standard tuning using open A (add in the sus2/B and sus4/D notes on the B string) and Amaj7 in the verses. Use a second-fret barre F#min and Bsus2 for the chorus parts.

Browse the Cars' catalog here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes is a music writer with an expertise in all things guitar-related. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a journalist covering artists, industry pros and gear includes writing hundreds of articles and features for the likes of Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar, as well as contributions for specialist books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.