Kesha spent Monday morning riding her bike and listening to the second album by Suicide, the wildly influential synth-punk duo. It’s the kind of thing she might do on any given day (“it felt like I was living in a David Lynch film, and that’s kind of all I want in life”), but she was also paying quiet tribute to the producer of that 1980 album, Ric Ocasek. Ocasek died at the age of 75 last Sunday of heart disease, according to the New York City medical examiner’s office.
When Kesha was a teenager, her musical tastes were edgy and broad – she loved the Stooges and got into Captain Beefheart – but she also had a growing “affinity for pop music.” “Ric Ocasek, along with the Beach Boys, had a huge influence on me accepting that pop music is fucking cool,” she says. “I’m obsessed with the Cars, and the fact that he worked with a band like Suicide, and had such amazing pop instincts, especially melodically – it’s like, see? Pop music is cool!”
When she was around 16, Kesha got to work with Ocasek, visiting his home. “It was the first time I’d ever been in someone’s house in New York City that had an elevator in the house,” she says. “I was like, ‘Damn, this guy’s a pimp.’ And I remember his beautiful wife. He was obviously, like, a strange genius. But he was the nicest guy ever. And every idea was worth exploring. He didn’t make me feel stupid or young or inexperienced for one second. Everything was worth exploring with him and I loved that all creativity was good. Even if it was not really a very good idea he was open to trying to explore it with me, and he was just so kind because it was way before I had a song on the radio and he took the time to work with me, when i was just a little pissant in the industry.”
Kesha and her mom, Pebe Sebert, worked on an early version of a song that ended up on her debut album, “Stephen,” with Ocasek, along with a unreleased track called “Party Jam.” She’d love to honor Ocasek by putting the latter song out, but she doesn’t have the recording handy. “I don’t know where the fuck it would be,” she says. “I’m going to look for it now.”