The band’s inclusion in the institution has been a long time coming, as they were first eligible for the 2004 ceremony. They were also nominated and passed over two times in a row in consecutive years before Rock Hall voters picked vocalist-guitarist Ric Ocasek, guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes, drummer David Robinson and the group’s late bassist, Benjamin Orr, for inclusion.
“Any time you get an award for something, whether its a bowling trophy or whatever, you feel a little special from it, I suppose,” Ocasek told Rolling Stone last year of the honor. “It’s certainly a wonderful feeling to be accepted by peers and you see the people that are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who gets inducted, it’s a positive feeling that you get.”
Each of the surviving members used their time at the podium to reflect on the long road it took for them to get to this place. Here’s what they all had to say.
Elliot Easton: Thank you, Brandon, for your lovely words. Hi everyone, my name is Elliot Easton and I’m proud to say that I play guitar with The Cars. Thank you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Board for bestowing this honor on us. It’s a thrill to join the ranks of the incredible artists who have already been inducted.
Quick story, just so you’ll know how deeply this thing goes: In 1956, I was 3 years old and saw Elvis on TV. I had my mom comb my hair into a spit curl just like Elvis, grabbed my Mickey Mouse guitar and checked myself out in the mirror. Already a rock and roller at 3! From that moment, to this one tonight, it’s been a long, crazy twisted river. How lucky I am to have realized and lived out my childhood dreams. In a way there’s still a dreamlike quality to all of this.
Just a few words of thanks: To all at OK Mgmt., Jeff Kramer, Dani, Cindy, Brian – thanks for always steering this ship in the right direction. To Joe Smith and Elektra Records for giving us a chance to make a record in the first place, and to Rhino Records for doing a such brilliant job with our reissues and deluxe editions of our albums. Our producers, Roy Thomas Baker and Mutt Lange, for capturing and enhancing what we do in the best possible light.
In our very early days, we had an angel. Her name is Maxanne Sartori. A top DJ at WBCN in Boston, the city’s biggest FM rock station. Maxanne did an amazing thing: she started playing our demo tape in heavy rotation alongside all the biggest records of the day. The spins got reported in the radio tip sheets. So it would say, The Cars, Just What I Needed, and then in the column where the record label would normally be listed, it said TAPE!!! A&R reps for major labels started flying to Boston to check out this local band, The Cars, whose demo tape got so much airplay that it was being reported on a national level. Maxanne did that. We are forever indebted.
Thanks to our crew, who were with us from the beginning and never left. To my fellow bandmates: Ric, Ben and Greg.
Greg, who did so much to define the band’s distinctive sound, and who helped foster a workshop atmosphere in the studio. We all had a great, creative time, bouncing ideas off each other working to make a great song into a great record.
David, for his rock-solid drumming, and for his contributions to the band’s image, naming the band, creating our logo and art directing all of our iconic album covers.
We all know one thing for sure: it all begins with a great song. Without that none of this would exist: the music business, radio, the hall of fame, all of it – without a great song, there’s nothing. In Ric Ocasek, we had an incredible songwriter, whose songs gave the band such a wonderful platform and framework for the rest of us to be creative, collaborative, and do the best work of our lives. Thanks Ric!
Benjamin. He would have loved this night, right here, in his hometown of Cleveland. This city that was so proud of him. His beautiful voice, solid bass playing and good humor was such a huge part of the band’s success. Not a bad-looking guy either!
To our fans, thank you for 40 years of undying support – we’d be nowhere without you.
To my wife Jill, who worked in this business of ours, as a Senior VP at A&M records, and my daughter Sydney, your love and patience in putting up with the life of a musician means more to me than I could ever express, and I love you both to the moon and back.
Finally to my mom, a Juilliard-trained singer, a talent on the level with Garland and Clooney, who gave up her career to raise a family. Who gave me the gift of music, and whose legacy lives on in my daughter, also an amazing singer. Music is our family business.
My mom was my biggest fan and shared in the joy of our success. I always felt like I was doing this for the both of us. I know that she’s smiling down at me tonight and is so happy and proud. We did it, mom. Thank you all very much.
Greg Hawkes: In 1964, I was 11 years old, and I had been taking piano lessons for 3 or 4 years and frankly, I was getting bored and wanted to give them up. So one day my dad came home and said, “well, I’ve got tickets to go see The Beatles, but if you want to go, you’ve got to sign up for another year of piano lessons.” Back then, I thought that was a pretty good deal. I still think that’s a pretty good deal, so I’d like to thank my dad for that pretty good deal. The other side of that story is that I have to acknowledge that if it weren’t for The Beatles, I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me that I wanted to be in a band.
I’d like to say thanks to Roy Thomas Baker, who produced the first four Cars’ albums and helped define the sound of The Cars. Roy came to see us play during a snowstorm in Massachusetts at a high school gym with about 20 or 30 people in the audience and still agreed to produce our first album on the spot. Thanks, Roy! And I’d like to thank Mutt Lange for his contribution to the Heartbeat City album.
If you ever worked for The Cars, I’d like to say thank you and there’s a few that I’d like to mention by name… Andy Topeka, Thom Moore, Joe Astrella, Brian Sklarz, David Heglemeyer, Julia Channing, Gene Amoroso, Steve Berkowitz, Richard Fernandez, Elliot Roberts and Lookout management.
Thanks to Jeff Kramer and everybody at OK management, and I’d like to thank Jeff in particular for springing for the extra tables tonight.
I have my own personal hall of fame that I would to thank, my friends Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, whose history speaks for itself, with The Turtles, the Mother’s of Invention, and just as Flo & Eddie. They were probably the closest thing to having mentors that I ever had. I’d like to give a nod of appreciation to Todd Rundgren, who has been one of my musical heroes since before I was ever in The Cars. And I’d like to thank Martin Mull who gave me my first professional job in the music business. And thanks to Kraftwerk and Devo for being so good.
I’d like to thank my family for being here tonight. My wife Elaine and I got married the same year The Cars started, so she’s seen it all. My kids, Ian and Annie are here tonight. I love you guys.
I’d like to say thanks to The Cars fans, who are the real reason we’re here. I know some of you voted for us every single day in the fan poll, not only this year, but the two previous years we were nominated when we didn’t get in. So thank you!
And finally, I’d like to give my acknowledgement to Ben Orr. How fitting that we are in Cleveland tonight. Without Ben’s innate talent and rock star good looks, it’s unlikely we would be here tonight.
David Robinson: This is a great honor. We’ve been together probably 42 years. Also I thank everybody on the album … I can’t believe we’re in the Hall of Fame … I can’t even describe what that’s like. Thank you very much!
Ric Ocasek: I just want to start off with a little known fact about The Cars. When we started the band Ben was supposed to be the lead singer and I was supposed to be the good-looking guy in the band. But after the first gig that changed. I got demoted to just the songwriter.
It’s hard not to notice that Benjamin Orr is not here. He would have been elated to be on this stage, receiving this award, in his hometown. It feels quite strange to be up here without him, and we miss and love him dearly. We want to thank the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters for inducting us. We like being abducted.
Firstly, I’d like to thank my wheelchaired grandmother for forcing me to sing for her friends, in the parlor when I was five years old. She also had the nerve to buy me a Sears & Roebuck guitar when I was 14. Then one day I heard a song on the radio called “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly. So I started playing guitar then. I have to thank her for that.
I want to thank my manager and closest friend, Jeff Kramer, at OK Management and his companions, Cindy Osborne, Dani Barnard and Brian Higgins. Then there’s Roy Thomas Baker, our producer who kept us laughing in the dark. It was a perfect storm. Eccentric Roy took us to London to record our first album in 12 days.
The legendary Elliot Roberts who managed The Cars during their growing years. Elektra Records Joe Smith. Peter Thall and Bert Padell who took care of us in the 1980s. Richard Fernandez, who always got us to where we had to go.
David Heglmeier, our right hand man. Brandon Flowers, for all the wonderful adjectives. Scott Shriner from Weezer who will be playing bass with us tonight. Mario Testani for watching our chips. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautigan, Bob Dylan, for all their words.
Anyway, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight if it wasn’t for Benjamin Orr, Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton and David Robinson. They are the sound of The Cars.
Most importantly, I’d like to thank my loving family, because they know me pretty well and still like me anyway.
So I lived in Cleveland for a while. It was the first place I played music in front of people. It was at a hootenanny about 20 blocks away. I’ve only moved this far up the street for all those years. Good night.