The Cars: Don't Let Boundaries Hold You Back


We lost Ric Ocasek suddenly yesterday.

I was a big fan of his band The Cars when I was younger. Songs like “My Best Friend’s Girl”, “Shake It Up”, and “Let’s Go” were the soundtrack to my youth. And the pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High made sure that “Moving in Stereo” was forever embedded in my brain.

What amazed me about The Cars is that my new wave friends who loved New Order, Talking Heads, and The Smiths loved them… but so did my hard rock friends who listened AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Ozzy. And so did my Top 40 friends who were into Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, and Cyndi Lauper. It seemed The Cars bridged all of those different tastes with ease!

The Cars were essentially a new wave synth band, but beyond that they layered in elements of early rock ‘n roll and rockabilly. They topped that with catchy power pop earworm choruses. They were really impossible to put a label on. As a result, they sounded equally at home next to The Talking Heads, Zeppelin, and Duran Duran. Who else could do that?

The album Heartbeat City epitomizes The Cars. With Mutt Lange producing, they reinvented the music video with “You Might Think”. They threw us a curveball with the profoundly sad “Drive”, sung by their bass player Benjamin Orr. They created an anthem of the season with the “Magic” and the opening lyric “summer, it turns you upside down.” Those two songs, “Magic” and “Drive”, were sequential on the album, taking the band from the upbeat optimism of summer sunshine to the depths of addiction, loneliness, and depression… in just one song.

The Cars were a band that could cross boundaries effortlessly and retain their credibility everywhere they went. And Ric Ocasek was the source for much of that. It was very sad to lose Ric yesterday.

Crossing boundaries while retaining credibility is the hallmark of so much greatness.

Coca-Cola grows when it goes beyond the “happiness'“ brand essence of a coke with the health-conscious lifestyle of today.

BMW has always been about pure driving pleasure, which has given them appeal with gearheads and suits alike.

Disney’s brand of “magic” has transcended youth, offering cruises, weddings, and magical moments for all ages.

Nike’s “just do it” applies to professional athletes, hard-core gym buffs, and casual dog walkers. They’ve even taken the motto political with the Colin Kaepernick campaign.

Never stop being who you are – like The Cars – but thrive on the cross-boundary appeal of what you do… and let the good times roll.

In memory of Ric, you can enjoy some of my favorite songs by The Cars on this Spotify playlist.

And you can download and read Brand Like a Rock Star here, and start putting the lessons of rock legends to use in your business every day.