Italian Impresario David Zard Dies

David Zard
Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images
– David Zard
at the ‘2009 Vittorio De Sica Awards’ at Quirinale on November 9, 2009 in Rome, Italy

David Zard, a pioneer of the Italian live music industry, died in Rome, aged 75, on Jan. 27. Zard is credited with staging the first Italian concerts by Genesis, Lou Reed, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones and more.

Zard was born in Tripoli, Libya. He began his career organizing concerts in Tripoli for the local Italian community. He was forced to leave his native country in the six-day war of 1967. According to La Stampa, Zard passed away after a long illness.

Pollstar reached out to a couple of other Italian promoters for comment. Barley Art’s Claudio Trotta was in the middle of planning a July 4 event to remember another Italian legend, Franco Mamone, when he received a call from his friend, the artist manager Enrico Rovelli, who was also the local promoter in Milan of both Mamone and Zard.

“He asked me if I knew that David was dead. I did not know. I was driving in my car an had to stop for a second. I realized I had stopped in Uberti Street in Milan, the place where Franco died,” Trotta wrote.

“I was thinking about when I went to see David Zard in hospital in December 2017, and I remember how he shared kind words about myself, even though it was a sad occasion for him, and how he was delighted talking about his son Clemente, who is successfully following in his footsteps.”

(Warner Music Italy appointed Clemente Zard in summer 2016 to manage the company’s live entertainment arm Vivo Concerti.)

Trotta continued: “David was a visionary, proud and courageous, who challenged you with his deep, sometimes deriding, look. We had never worked together, and in spite of the strong public discussions we had, often really theatrical on both sides, we deeply respected each other, and, in our own way, liked each other.

“He had a unique charisma, personality and character, and he was intellectually honest in his statements, which often corresponded with what I thought, but were often very different to what I thought as well. He was outstanding in the marketing and promotion of his brand, and he strongly disliked any type of harassment and abuse. And, more recently, he’s been one of the few colleagues, who clearly spoke out against secondary ticketing and the use and financing of the system by companies well known to all of us.

“I like to think that he will continue to shout ‘please take a step back’ from one of the many stages on which he will still exist, just as he used to when trying to keep teenagers safe at Spandau Ballet or Duran Duran shows – a long time ago when they were pushing to get closer to the bands, when Mojo Barriers didn’t exist yet.

“I guess that, maybe, we all need to take a step back. Bye bye David. P.S., as Nick Cave said: ‘Death Is Not The End.’ And it isn’t, as long as we do not forget our memories and the people that have fed them too quickly.“

Zard promoted Duran Duran’s “Strange Behaviour” tour in Italy. The band’s bassist John Taylor released the following statement: “Very sad to hear, David was such a great guy. The tour he promoted was one of the most fun we did, in large part because of his charm and sense of humor. Italy has lost one of its great music men.“

Keyboardist Nick Rhodes wrote: “David was a fearless innovator, always looking for a new way to present live performances. I don’t think anyone else in Italy would have been able to stage the stadium tour he promoted for us when we first worked together. We were in unchartered waters as no other artists had played at many of the venues he had booked, ambitiously covering most regions of Italy.

“Things were going surprisingly well given the level of chaos, until we reached Bari, when it all became slightly more complicated. I remember sitting in my hotel room on show day and randomly switching on the TV to see what was going on, even though I barely understood a word of Italian. I was shocked to see a live news feed from the stadium we were scheduled to play at in a few hours time, where it appeared that David was being arrested by the police. I immediately contacted our tour manager to see if he knew what was going on but he had no idea and it took a while before the story unraveled.

“The telephone suddenly started to ring, I sensed an air of panic, my first question was, ‘Has David been arrested,’ [which was] vaguely answered [with] ‘We don’t think so, at the moment.’ I countered with ‘Is the show going to happen?’ The response was a swift ‘Yes, but it is going to be a very unusual set up.’

Duran Duran
– Duran Duran
Poster for the band’s 1987 “Strange Behaviour” tour

“In grand Italian style, there had been some considerable drama about arrangements and it had been decided that the football club did not want spectators on their pitch as it was raining heavily and they were concerned about damage to the turf. The carefully negotiated compromise was that they would accommodate the entire audience in the stands instead of on the pitch, so this meant that our front row was effectively the length of a football pitch away from the stage. Thankfully, the audience was all around the side stands too and, despite the bad weather, thrilled that the show was going ahead.

“David emerged at the hotel, ruffled but not discouraged, far from pleased with the result. [He had] repeatedly [offered] to go to jail if necessary as a means of protest [against] this great injustice. Once we had a chat, everyone agreed that perhaps we should make the best of the situation and play the show for the fans – David seemed rather relieved. He took a deep breath, adjusted his jacket and prepared for an impromptu press conference to announce the details. As he was walking towards the cameras, he was still offering to go to jail over the principle, if it would help!

“We all laughed a lot and although it was certainly a unique show, it went extremely well and will forever remain in my memory along with David’s steely resolve, warm heart and big smile. He pioneered the road map for how concert tours could be staged in Italy and undoubtedly opened the doors for many artists, certainly Duran Duran were lucky enough to be one of those and we are eternally grateful to David for the opportunity he gave to us. He will be greatly missed.”

The promoter was also instrumental in the success of English band Spandau Ballet. The band’s bassist Martin Kemp tweeted: “Oh no, my dear friend. #DavidZard RIP Touring Italy will never be the same without you. Thank you so, so much for everything you did for us! Spandau Ballet and The whole of the music business will miss you!”

Kemp’s brother Gary, the band’s guitarist added: “A mensch and a gent, I am forever in his debt.”

A statement on the band’s website reads: “Spandau Ballet and Steve Dagger are devastated to hear of the passing of their great friend and promoter David Zard. David was a true visionary and one of the great impresarios with whom we worked for 33 years. He was so instrumental in the career of Spandau Ballet in Italy. Our sincerest condolences to the Zard Family. A true great and we will miss him so very much.”