Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Marsha Zazula on Her Birthday
"I give God and my wife Marsha credit for every wonderful thing that has made this life so interesting."
Those words ring loud in the opening of Jonny Z's memoir, Heavy Tales: The Metal, The Music, The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula. Throughout his book, there are very few moments where Jonny Z reflects on his life's work with heavy metal, Megaforce Records and beyond without mentioning his wife, Marsha.
The two were a team in the truest sense.
Marsha Zazula, Matriarch of Heavy
In Heavy Tales, Jonny Z quickly set the stage for what it meant to work alongside Marsha. The two worked together on newspaper ads, radio promotions and even going to bars to change out flyers for their label's shows.
One show, in particular, stands out in their history: The Megaforce showcase featuring Anthrax, Raven and Metallica, held at the legendary Roseland Ballroom in New York City.
On Aug. 3, 1984—one week after the release of Ride the Lightning—the three bands came together to celebrate Megaforce.
Marsha famously named that showcase A Midsummer's Night Scream.
Decades after that showcase—following Marsha's death in early 2021—Lars Ulrich thanked Marsha for "making it happen...for supporting us, for encouraging us, for advising us, for sheltering us, for feeding us, and most importantly for cheering us on."
"She was the sweetest thing," Jonny Z remembered, "but on our first meeting she gave me a rough time and hated me because of my arrogance and ego." Arrogance and ego aside, Jonny and Marsha quickly bonded over their mutual love of music, specifically their love of jazz music. Marsha was always a huge fan of jazz and she loved Gato Barbieri and Wayne Shorter.
That commitment to music led to a one-of-a-kind lifetime together.
As Jonny Z stated in Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal:
Before thrash metal started taking off, my wife Marsha and I had a flea market store in New Jersey, where we were selling predominantly picture discs from Europe by bands like the Kinks. But there was one picture disc I really loved, and it was Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny. Someone gave me $200 for it. I said, “Wow, this is amazing.” I realized there was a real market for metal, so I started bringing in other things like that. And then I met Maria Ferrero [longtime Megaforce Records publicist and the current owner of Adrenaline PR]. She came knocking on my door to buy Motörhead and I really didn’t know much about them, but I found the album and I got it for her. We got to the point where all we would buy was metal, nothing else.
Ferrero followed Jonny in that conversation, adding, "Jonny and Marsha were the champions of metal. They brought us the goods and we ate it up." Speaking with Ultimate Metallica in 2022, Ferrero reaffirmed that statement, saying, "Jon and Marsha forged this movement and that movement helped me find my identity."
It is crystal clear that throughout their life and work together, Marsha and Jonny Z embodied a mutual respect for one another and held a deep friendship; that was obvious to the bands they worked with. Open the liner notes to nearly any Megaforce album and you'll find the band thanking "Jon and Marsha Z."
Marsha penned the epilogue for her husband's memoir and the final words of the book wrap up their life together in a beautiful, unforgettable way:
"I could have never dreamt this journey would be my life but it was and it is and I'm forever grateful to have it."
Marsha Zazula was born on April 21, 1952. She passed away at the age of 68 on Jan. 10, 2021. In the headline for her obituary in The New York Times, she was described as the "Metal Matriarch of Metallica."
Metallica saluted the reality of who Marsha was on Nov. 6, 2022, as they celebrated her and Jonny Z's life, legacy and continued influence at a special old-school show honoring them.
Truly, Marsha was—and remains—the Metal Matriarch of heavy metal. The day the world said goodbye to Marsha, her daughter Rikki shared a simple, yet profound, truth about her mom: "Your love, Your strength, Your memory and Your music has changed lives and will continue to FOREVER."
Join us as we celebrate the life and legacy of Marsha Zazula today, tomorrow and forever.