While he said he didn’t want people prying into his personal life, “I feel that my song lyrics are kind of an open book,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1986. “I feel that writing songs for my solo albums is kind of like spilling my guts, telling people how I really feel subconsciously. When I’m writing, it’s like I’m not really in control.”
In 2003, he took a job as senior vice president of artists and repertoire, charged with finding new hitmakers, for Elektra, but the label rejected his choices; he lasted less than a year. While in the Cars, he had produced albums for punk pioneers he admired: Bad Brains and Suicide. And after the Cars disbanded, he produced music for Weezer, Bad Religion and No Doubt. In a post on Twitter, Weezer said the group is “devastated” by Mr. Ocasek’s death, and “will forever cherish the precious times we got to work and hang out with him.”
After two previous marriages, Mr. Ocasek married the model and actress Paulina Porizkova in 1989; they met in 1984 while the Cars were making the music video for “Drive.” She announced in 2018 that they had separated a year earlier. He is survived by their two children, Jonathan Raven Otcasek and Oliver Otcasek, and four sons from previous marriages: Christopher, Adam, Eron and Derek.
Mr. Ocasek often said that he did not enjoy the grind of touring, and Mr. Easton and Mr. Hawkes performed without him — joined by Todd Rundgren as lead singer — as the New Cars from 2005 to 2007. But in 2011, Mr. Ocasek regrouped the surviving members of the Cars for a final album, “Move Like This,” and a tour, although his stage presence had always been diffident. “I don’t think I’m an entertainer,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “I never think, Wow, I can’t wait to get the crowd moving.”
In a pop world full of extroverts and peacocks, Mr. Ocasek always presented himself as a detached, introverted craftsman, dedicated to songwriting rather than showmanship. In 1987, he told The New York Times, “I’m happy that the pop songs have a bit of a twist. When I’m writing, I never know how it’s going to come out. I don’t think, well, I’ve done a catchy one, now I can do a weird one. I read a lot of poetry, and that gives me a wide range of permission to say anything in a song — they’re more twisted than I’ll ever be.”
Joe Coscarelli and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.