Gay Mercader Honored By Spanish Government

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Living the good life (from left): Keith Richards, Gay Mercader, and Rolling Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler.

Spanish promoter legend Gay Mercader received the gold medal for merit in the fine arts (la Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes) from the Spanish government, making him the first rock promoter to receive this honor.

Mercader, born Lluís Jordi Mercader Aguilar in Barcelona in 1949, brought many of the worlds biggest acts to Spain for the first time, including the Rolling Stones (1976), Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley (both 1980), Bob Dylan (1984), and Michael Jackson (1988) – many of which have become friends, some of which still are.

Mercaders achievements appear even more remarkable when recalling that Spain was just coming out of the Franco dictatorship, which had the country in its grips – and deemed rock music socially unacceptable – until Franco’s passing in 1975. By that time, Mercader had already launched his own company, Gay & Company, which later became Gamerco, and got acquired by Live Nation in 2006.

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Gay Mercader (right) with Patti Smith.

It marks the first time in history that the Spanish government awards the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes to a rock promoter. It was an important moment for the live entertainment industry at large, Mercader told Pollstar, as this medal “finally recognised that we rock promoters represent something, not just the artists, actors and writers.”

Among the reasons the council around Spain’s minister of culture and sports, Miquel Iceta, nominated Mercader, is fact that he organized the first concert of the Rolling Stones in Spain, “which was quite an event and put Spain on the map for the great concert tours of artists such as Bob Dylan, AC / DC or The Cure, among many others” – just the tip of the iceberg of a career that spans more than 40 years during which Mercader staged nearly 3,400 concerts.

Leading Spanish newspaper El País dedicated six pages in its weekly magazine El País Semanal to Mercader’s career, and visited him at his secluded home in Girona, which resulted in a short film titled, “Los Tesoros de Gay Mercader” (The treasures of Gay Mercader).

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