Greg Hawkes is best-known as the synthesizer player the Cars, but he was also briefly a solo artist, and has guested on recordings by other artists as well. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Hawkes took piano lessons at a young age, but soon abandoned the instrument in favor of comic books and Japanese cult films. By the age of 14, Hawkes had picked up the guitar, and formed his first true band, the Aardvarks. Eventually, Hawkes returned to piano, and enrolled in Boston's Berklee School of Music during the early '70s. It was during this time that Hawkes befriended another former Baltimore native who happened to settle down in Boston, singer/guitarist/songwriter Ric Ocasek. Hawkes joined a folk-based group that Ocasek was leading at the time (along with Ben Orr), called Milkwood. The group would issue a lone album in 1972, How's the Weather, before splitting up. Hawkes played with various Boston-based bands throughout the mid-'70s, including a soft rock outfit called Orphan, plus a group that backed comedian Martin Mull (called Martin Mull & His Fabulous Furniture). Ocasek and Orr decided to update their musical style and give it a modern new wave edge for their next project, which resulted the duo reuniting with Hawkes in the group Cap'n Swing. The band served as a precursor to the Cars, who signed on with Elektra Records and issued their classic self-titled debut in 1978. Few songs are as closely associated to the new wave movement as the albums' enduring hit, "Just What I Needed," which was propelled by Hawkes' space age synth playing. The Cars quickly became one of the most commercially successful bands of the late '70s/early '80s, on the strength of such further releases as 1979's Candy-O, 1980's Panorama, 1981's Shake It Up, and 1984's Heartbeat City. Although Ocasek was the group's undisputed main songwriter, the only other Cars bandmember to earn co-songwriting credits (albeit on an extremely limited basis) was Hawkes, who lent a hand in the penning of the tracks "This Could Be Love" (from Shake It Up and "It's Not The Night" (from Heartbeat City). Hawkes would also find a home for several of his other original compositions on his one and only solo release, 1983's Niagara Falls. Despite the Cars' standing as one of rock's biggest groups, the band imploded after only one more release, 1987's lackluster Door to Door, as they split up the following year.
Hawkes would continue to play with others (he'd already guested on a pair of solo releases by Ocasek during their tenure with the Cars, 1982's Beatitude and 1986's This Side of Paradise), including session work on Paul McCartney's 1989 release, Flowers in the Dirt. During the '90s, Hawkes continued to sporadically pop up on other artists' albums (Propaganda's 1234 and self-titled release, Letters for Cleo's Go!, La Peste's Peste), plus another solo release by Ocasek (1997's Troublizing) and a compilation of '70's-era Martin Mull material, Mulling It Over: A Musical Oeuvre View. The keyboardist also oversaw the production and release of a pair of double-disc archival Cars releases issued during the late '90s, 1995's Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology and 1999's The Cars [Deluxe Edition]. In 2000, Hawkes and all his former Cars bandmates were interviewed together for the first time since their split, as a bonus segment for their DVD release the same year, Live. ~ Greg Prato