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    Cars Rocker Ben Orr Dies

    Ben Orr, who cofounded the seminal new wave rock band the Cars and sang some of the band's greatest hits, has died. He was 53.

    The musician passed away Tuesday night at his home in Atlanta.

    Last May, Orr checked himself into Atlanta's Piedmont hospital and doctors discovered a large tumor on his pancreas. Orr was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and eventually discharged.

    Born Benjamin Orzechowski in Cleveland, Orr formed the Cars with singer-guitarist Rick Ocasek in Boston in 1976. Within two years, the band gained a huge international following when their first two albums, The Cars and Candy-O, went platinum, selling more than 6 million copies worldwide.

    With their unique mix of electronics, catchy melodies and guitar-driven songs, the quintet cranked out 13 top 40 hits, putting them at the forefront of the late '70s new wave explosion. Orr played bass and shared vocal chores with Ocasek. That's Orr's voice on such classic Cars tracks as 1978's "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl," 1979's "Let's Go." (The band's other signature hits include "Heartbeat City," "Shake It Up," and "You Might Think.")

    The band scored its biggest success with the Orr-sung "Drive," which reached number 3 on the Billboard charts in 1984. Two years later, Orr released his only solo effort, The Lace, which spawned the top 30 hit "Stay the Night."

    The Cars disbanded in 1987, following the disappointing reception of their last album, Door to Door.

    Orr eventually settled in Atlanta and recently formed the band Big People with musicians from other classic rock outfits--Ted Nugent sideman Derek St. Holmes, .38 Special guitarist Jeff Carlisi and Billy Joel's drummer, Liberty DeVito. He continued to play with the group until its last scheduled performance, September 27.

    Orr reportedly died in his Atlanta home surrounded by his fiancée, Julie Snider, and members of Big People.

    The band has scheduled a tribute and memorial concert for Orr as part of a fundraiser for the March of Dimes at the Tabernacle in Atlanta October 6.

    Before he died, Orr reunited with Ocasek and his fellow Car bandmates for the first since 1987 to tape an interview for The Cars Live, a home video and DVD scheduled for release later this year by Rhino Records. The video features a June 1979 TV concert by the Cars in Bremen, Germany, the only time the group toured Europe.

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