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Marsha Zazula, Co-Founder of Iconic Metal Label Megaforce Records, Dies at 68

Marsha Zazula
Courtesy Rikki Zazula

Marsha Zazula

Marsha Zazula, the co-founder of metal label Megaforce Records, has died. She was 68.

"No man can ask for a partner like Marsha Zazula, someone who would stand by your side, support you, and believe in you to the extent of losing everything in order to make those dreams come true," her husband, Jon, said in a statement to Billboard. "She was a mother and mentor to many, a role model as a woman breaking the glass ceiling in an industry ran by men. She had balls, beauty, brains, and vision."

Zazula's daughter Rikki shared a heartfelt post about her mother's death on Facebook, writing that she passed away on Sunday (Jan. 10). "RIP Mom April 21, 1952 -January 10, 2021 Your love, Your strength, Your memory and Your music has changed lives and will continue to FOREVER," she wrote.

Zazula died at her Florida home after a battle with cancer, Variety reports.

Zazula and husband Jon (aka Jonny Z) humbly began their career in the music business by selling vinyl imports and picture discs at a New Jersey flea market. In 1982, the couple founded Megaforce, which became the imprint for a handful now-iconic heavy metal acts, including Metallica, Anthrax, Testament and Overkill.

"The world of music owes a debt of gratitude to Marsha Zazula, who along with her husband Jon gave birth to some of the most musically significant artists," Megaforce wrote in a statement on Twitter. "Marsha was one of a kind and taught the world to be fiercely independent. In our hearts, she’ll always be a guiding force."

Megaforce is credited for the release of Metallica's first two albums, 1983's Kill 'Em All and 1984's Ride the Lightning. The superstar rock band paid tribute to Zazula on Instagram following her death.

"Rest In Peace, Marsha. Thank you for everything," Metallica captioned a photo with Zazula shortly after news of her death broke. "Much love to @thejonzazula & the Zazula family."

The following day, lead singer James Hetfield shared his own tribute on the band's Instagram account. "Marsha Z is the Metal Matriarch of the East Coast. She was our mother when I had none. She made great sacrifices for Metallica to grow," Hetfield wrote. "Thank you Marsha. Love and positive energy to the Zazula family."

Anthrax also remembered Zazula in an emotional tribute on Instagram. "It’s with much sadness that we hear of the passing of Marsha Zazula. A true pioneer along with Jonny Z. Those two were responsible for changing all our lives," the group wrote. "Hard to put into words what a world this might be without their belief and dedication to metal and all of us. Our love to her family."

In 1995, Megaforce spun off a full-service sister company, MRI, that helped pioneer a business model giving artists more control in how they were managed and had their music distributed. The Zazulas left Megaforce in 2001, selling their stake in the label to its former radio director, Missi Callazzo. By 2009, MRI had acquired acclaimed blues/jazz label Palmetto Records. In recent years, the company has distributed releases by Björk, The Black Crowes, Living Colour and Third Eye Blind.

The fairy-tale rise of Megaforce is detailed in Jon Zazula's 2019 autobiography, Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. In an interview that year with Billboard, he playfully discussed running a business alongside his life partner.

"Well, Marsha and I had some doozies of adventures in fighting," he said. "After about 27 years of marriage, we realized that there’s only one way to not fight anymore, it’s very simple: Tell your wife she’s right. We’re married 40 years now."