Of Milli Vanilli

Milli Vanilli was RnB that shot to fame in the early 90s.. They had it all, the look, the walk and the Grammys…

Rob Pilatus, left, and Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli best new artist award in Los Angeles Feb. 21, 1990. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

I recall singing along (wrongly) at the top of my voice to their music..

It was quite recently (and am still coming to terms with it) when I discovered they pulled off what is considered one of the greatest musical scams of all times… that their musical act wasn’t exactly as it seemed.

Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus did not sing a single vocal on any of their ‘songs’… they were lip syncing… as you can imagine (or if you already knew this) it turned into quite the scandalous circus and they ended up having to return the Grammy they got for Best New Artist.

Some years after the scandal, they tried a come back album but its release was cancelled after the death of Rob Pilatus…

How it started

Rob and Fab first met at a dance seminar in Munich and bonded over growing up in Europe in cities that didn’t have many black people. They later met up, tried to find work as backing singers and eventually started their thing and recorded an album.

Frank Farian a music producer heard of the duo invited them to listen to a demo that would become Girl You Know Its True and promised to make them millionaires.

And before you can say hey lets take the world on a ride, they had signed a contract to release 10 songs a year…  The final version of Girl You Know Its True had vocals performed by studio performers, whilst Rob and Fab simply made it look good; rocking tight shorts, boots, hair extensions  and the rest was chart topping, world touring history.

How it went south

In interviews after the fracas, they claimed they had also been victims who had never gotten to express their own artistry as their producer kept stringing them along to keep “performing” pre-recorded tracks to make a name and then later they could do some of their own stuff, later never came…

When the All or Nothing Album was released (with music written and produced mostly by Frank Farian) it was a bit too late to do anything with the music being a hit well, the path was set, the money was coming in, considering the guys came from a poor background where fame was a dream of stardom was sought but never achieved…

Suspicion started because when they conducted interviews their strong accents (Fab’s French accent or Rob’s German accent) cast doubts as to how it didn’t show in their music and then during a live performance a malfunction with the equipment caused the music to jam and skip, repeatedly playing a partial line… “Girl you know it’s, girl you know it’s, girl you know it’s…” The word true never came because, girl, it wasn’t true…

Oct. 26, 1992 file photo, Fabrice Morvan, left, and Rob Pilatus of Milli Vanilli perform during the taping of the Arsenio Hall Show in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Craig Fujii, File)

“I knew right then and there, it was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli,” Pilatus told the Los Angeles Times in November 1990. “When my voice got stuck in the computer and it just kept repeating and repeating, I panicked. I just ran off the stage.″

The All or Nothing Album was repackaged as Girl You Know Its True for the American audience and explicitly attributed the vocals to Morvan and Pilatus which resulted in  Charles Shaw revealing he was on one of the 3 actual vocalists in December 1989.

Following the scrutiny and pressure from the duo to do their own vocals Frank Farian announced he had fired them and confessed they had not sung the music on the records.. Pilatus and Morvan gave a press conference of their own and even sang a bit to prove they could actually sing (even if the music attributed to them wasn’t theirs) and they stated their willingness to return their Grammy and had simply made “a deal with the devil

But the end wouldn’t be quite that simple the were lawsuits and fraud protection laws resulting in class-action lawsuits… In 1991 a new settlement was approved which refunded those who attended concerts as well as those who bought Milli Vanilli recordings. An estimated 10 million buyers were eligible to claim a refund.

The musicians behind Milli Vanilli: Brad Howell (R) and John Davis (2L), who sang the vocals, Gina Mohammed (3L), Ray Horton (L) and their producer Frank Farian (2R) posing at the control board in a recording studio in 1990. Photo: Ian Cook/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

What do you think?..

I am pretty sure if we really look into it, some of our favourite musicians aren’t really who we think they are, in a world of ghostwriters, autotune, glitzy filters, makeup and grand illusions of stardom, were Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, really that much out of line?

Pilatus never quite recovered from the scandal and could be what saw him spiral out of control into a life of substance abuse and crime, culminating in death by suspected overdose on the eve of the release of the comeback album Back and In Attack 2 April 1998.

“When I heard the news of Rob’s death, everything went blank at that moment. Silence. It was like losing a part of myself. In order to honor him, and for myself, I said a vow that I would do my thing. And I would make sure the name Milli Vanilli itself means when you fall, you stand back up, and you move on.” Fab MorvanBiography.com


16 Comments

    1. Honestly though I think the producers should have suffered more from the scandal but hey the industry is skewed like that
      ~B

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  1. Artists that do heavy dance routines lip sync, over produced artists sound awful live..a recent example would be Lorde’s hit Royals…sounds like a completely different person when it’s sung live

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Before the pandemic once went to some live performance a local ensemble, yeah not only did it sound different it was kinda horrible people ended up begging them to play a CD Just before people started throwing stuff on stage and booed them off… People can be so wild though…

      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah this is old news to me because I was old enough to remember the scandal, my Mom had their cassette album, funny enough she didn’t care about the ruse she continued to love the music. Girl you know it…girl you know it….

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  2. I can say that all I knew about these guys is their songs and the fact that they are played on radio mostly on sunday afternoons – that’s just about it. Not their name, scandal or even their race. I am glad I read this. Now I can show off to my pears how I know them and what led to their downfall😎

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well if you alive around that time, you would have definitely run into their music wether you knew them or not.. had a couple of people also commenting that hey they remember the songs (how could they not they were chart topping) But yeah the scandal bit of it didn’t quite make its way to us, this was before internet and the like and I am not sure where we would have seen the news of the scandal hahaha maybe if one subscribed to those international celebrity mags or something or listened to a radio show which gave scoops but mostly yeah it would have flown over our heads.. as it did hahahaha
      well glad to have given some interesting conversation fillers
      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

    1. scandal scandal scandal …. but really I dont think it was such a big deal…
      and yep that pic led to me writing this post
      ~B

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    1. Oh the nonsense we sang before we could just google up lyrics to songs… and oh my word those books we used to keep with lyrics and song dedications hahahahaha

      you know I was discussing this article with friends and while abroad this scandal was quite a mess over this side we pretty much didn’t even get wind of it, I mean where would we have seen it, doubt it would have come out on our local TV or radio.
      Also I don’t think it should have been such a big deal but I guess other factors came into play as well especially them having won a grammy but I am sure a simple citation like vocals by and performance by.. could have just cleared up things without it becoming such an embarrassing situation…. and the real villain was the producer but he walked away easily from the mess

      ~B

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    1. after some thought, their music was good, the performance was good, it really came down to matter of citation or credit to simply say the vocals by so and so and the performance by so and so just like people do when they do a cover of someone’s song, otherwise honestly this shouldn’t have been as scandalous as it was purported to be (its considered one of the greatest musical scams but really just a bit of good lip sync hahaha besides don’t performers lip sync on live performances especially if their set has a lot of dance )
      anyway I still think the villain was the producer but its the performers who got all the flak

      ~B

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  3. I remember wondering to myself: “How do these Germans (I thought they were both German back then) sing with no accent?” But, I figured that some people are just talented. If actors can fake different accents, maybe these two could, too?! (Modern Talking sings really smoothly in English, too. Hmmm…)

    I did not know I could have requested a refund for a cassette I had of theirs. To me, the cassette is priceless because it reminds me of some great times.

    I really feel bad for these guys, especially because they do/did have decent voices. They deserved fame as much as anyone else. But, you are right – there’s so much ‘fake’ today. Artists get credit for songs that other people write for them. They record in a studio, get it all nicely edited and then lip sync on stage…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These guys really got the bad end of the deal and for all the embarrassment this caused its mostly the duo who suffered but the mastermind not much kinda slipped under the radar….

      I am pretty sure some artists have songs that are so digitally enhanced that it might as well as be someone else who did their vocals 🤣 but well there’s no business than show business….

      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

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