Milli Vanilli

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Milli Vanilli
Milli Vanilli and C. Michael Greene.jpg
Fab Morvan (left) and Rob Pilatus (right) with NARAS President C. Michael Greene (center), February 1990
Background information
Also known as Rob & Fab
Origin Munich, West Germany
Genres Dance pop, new jack swing, R&B, funk, Eurodance, hip hop
Years active 1988–1990, 1997–1998
Labels Arista, Hansa
Associated acts The Real Milli Vanilli, Rob & Fab
Past members Representative:
Fab Morvan
Rob Pilatus
Charles Shaw
Brad Howell
John Davis
Jodie Rocco[1]
Linda Rocco
Frank Farian

Milli Vanilli was a German R&B duo from Munich. The group was founded by Frank Farian in 1988 and consisted of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. The group's debut album, titled All or Nothing in Europe and reconfigured as Girl You Know It's True in the United States, achieved international success and earned them a Grammy Award for Best New Artist on 21 February 1990.[2]

Milli Vanilli became one of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with millions of records sold. However, their success quickly turned to infamy when Morvan, Pilatus, and their agent Sergio Vendero confessed that Morvan and Pilatus did not sing any of the vocals heard on their music releases. The duo ended up giving back the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.[3][4][5] The group recorded a comeback album in 1998 titled Back and in Attack, but the album was never released after Rob Pilatus died at the age of 32.[6]

Beginnings, 1988

According to VH1's Behind the Music, the single "Girl You Know It's True" was first produced by Jesse Powell and had already been completed before Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan were recruited. Frank Farian felt that no efforts should be made to refine Pilatus and Morvan's voices.

Morvan claimed in 2011 that Farian had manipulated the two of them by giving them a small advance when he signed them. The pair spent most of it on clothes and hairstyling. Several months later, Farian called them and told them they had to lip sync to some prerecorded music or, as stated in the contract, repay the advance in full. "We were not hired, we were trapped," Morvan recalled.[7]

Lip-syncing exposure and media backlash, 1989–1991

Beth McCarthy-Miller, then an executive with MTV, says the duo's English language skills, when they came in for their first interview with the channel, stirred doubts among those present as to whether they had sung on their records.[7] The first public sign that the group was lip-syncing came on 21 July 1989, during a live performance on MTV at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut. As they performed, the recording of the song "Girl You Know It's True" jammed and began to skip, repeatedly playing the partial line "Girl, you know it's..." through the speakers. After a brief pause, they finished the show. According to the episode of VH1's Behind the Music which profiled Milli Vanilli, Downtown Julie Brown stated that fans attending the concert seemed neither to care, nor even to notice, and the concert continued as if nothing unusual had happened.[citation needed] In a March 1990 issue of Time magazine, Pilatus was quoted proclaiming himself to be "the new Elvis", reasoning that by the duo's success they were more talented musically than Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger.[8] This was denied by Fab Morvan, as recently as 2017, saying that Pilatus never used those words and that the quote was taken out of context likely due to Pilatus still not having a full grasp of the English language.[9]

Unlike the international release of All or Nothing, the inserts for the American version of the album explicitly attributed the vocals to Morvan and Pilatus. This prompted singer Charles Shaw to reveal in December 1989 that he was one of the three actual vocalists on the album and that Pilatus and Morvan were impostors. Farian reportedly paid Shaw $150,000 to retract his statements, though this did not stem the tide of public criticism.[10] Because of growing public questions as to who sang in the group, as well as Morvan and Pilatus' demand to Farian that they be allowed to sing on the next album, Farian confessed to reporters on 12 November 1990 that Morvan and Pilatus did not sing on the records. Having no intention of living a lie, Morvan and Pilatus stated their willingness to return their Grammy Award, which they ended up doing soon afterwards. However, their three American Music Awards were never returned and remain to this day in Frank Farian's possession.[11]

After these details emerged, different lawsuits[12] were filed under various U.S. consumer fraud protection laws[13] against Arista Records, Pilatus and Morvan. One such filing occurred on 22 November 1990, in Ohio, where lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit asking for refunds on behalf of a local woman in Cuyahoga County, who had bought Girl You Know It's True. At the time the lawsuit was filed, it was estimated at least 1,000 Ohio residents had bought the album.[13] On 12 August 1991, a proposed settlement of a refund lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois, was rejected. This settlement would have refunded buyers of Milli Vanilli CDs, cassettes, records, or singles. However, the refunds would only be given as a credit for a future Arista release.[12] On 28 August, a new settlement was approved; it refunded those who attended concerts along with those who bought Milli Vanilli recordings.[14] An estimated 10 million buyers were eligible to claim a refund and they could keep the refunded recordings as well.[14] The deadline to claim refunds passed on 8 March 1992.[15]

Adding to the controversy, in December 1990 singer-songwriter David Clayton-Thomas sued Milli Vanilli for copyright infringement, alleging that the title song of All or Nothing used the melody from his 1968 composition "Spinning Wheel", a hit for his group Blood, Sweat & Tears.[16]

The Real Milli Vanilli, 1991–1992

The resulting album, released in Europe in early 1991, was renamed The Moment of Truth and spawned three singles, "Keep On Running", "Nice 'n Easy" and "Too Late (True Love)". A Morvan/Pilatus lookalike named Ray Horton was depicted on the cover along with the real singers: Brad Howell and John Davis. In addition, the album featured rappers Icy Bro on "Hard as Hell" and Tammy T on "Too Late (True Love)". Original members and vocalists Jodie Rocco and Linda Rocco remained on 95% of the tracks. One of four Diane Warren-penned songs that are included on The Moment of Truth, "When I Die", has been covered by several other artists, including Farian's No Mercy. For the American market, Farian chose to avoid any association with Milli Vanilli and had the tracks re-recorded with Ray Horton on the majority of lead vocals. However, The Moment of Truth was never released in that format in the USA.[17]

Try 'N' B

In 1992, RCA signed on to release the album as the debut of the newly created group Try 'N' B. The self-titled release included three additional tracks not on the Real Milli Vanilli release: "Ding Dong", "Who Do You Love", and a remake of Dr. Hook's "Sexy Eyes", and featured original Milli Vanilli vocalists Jodie Rocco and Linda Rocco. Because of significantly better sales under the name Try 'N' B in America, a slightly modified Try 'N' B debut album was released internationally. It featured guest singer Tracy Ganser, a Ray Horton lookalike named Kevin Weatherspoon, as well as Jodie Rocco and Linda Rocco.[17]

Rob & Fab, 1990–1993

Morvan and Pilatus moved to Los Angeles, California, and signed with the Joss Entertainment Group. Sandy Gallin was their manager.[18] They recorded their follow-up album under the name Rob & Fab which was financed by Taj Records in 1992 and released by Joss Entertainment in 1993. Almost all the songs on the album were written by Kenny Taylor and Fab Morvan, while Morvan and Pilatus provided the lead vocals. Werner Schüler, a German bassist and songwriter, was their producer.[19] Because of financial constraints, Joss Entertainment Group was only able to release the album in the United States, the priority market to Milli Vanilli. A single, "We Can Get It On", was made available for radio play shortly before the album's release. However, the lack of publicity, poor distribution, and their steep fall from the height of pop-culture visibility after the lip-synching scandal contributed to its failure. The album only sold around 2,000 copies.[citation needed]

Comeback and death of Rob Pilatus, 1997–1998

In order to restore their career, Farian agreed to produce a new Milli Vanilli album with Morvan and Pilatus on lead vocals in 1997. This led up to the recording of the 1998 Milli Vanilli comeback album Back and In Attack. Even some of the original studio singers backed the performers in their attempt to bring back some of the fame that had been shed so quickly. However, Rob Pilatus encountered a number of personal problems during the production of the new album. He turned to drugs and crime, committing a series of assaults and robberies,[20] and was ultimately sentenced to three months in jail and six months in a drug rehabilitation facility in California. Farian bailed Pilatus out of jail and paid for the rehab and plane tickets for him to fly back to Germany.[21][better source needed] On the eve of the new album's promotional tour on 2 April 1998, Pilatus was found dead of a suspected alcohol and prescription drug overdose in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany.[22][23] His death was ruled accidental.[24]

As a result Back and In Attack remains unreleased and the tour was cancelled. The recordings are assumed to have been destroyed.[citation needed]

Fab Morvan's solo career

Morvan spent the following years as a session musician and public speaker while working on writing and performing his new music. In 1998, he was a DJ at famed L.A. radio station KIIS-FM. During this period he also performed at the station's sold-out 1999 Wango Tango festival concert before 50,000 people at Dodger Stadium. Morvan then spent 2001 on tour before performing in 2002 as the inaugural performer at the brand-new Velvet Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Florida. In 2003, Morvan released his first solo album, Love Revolution. He marketed the album through his website and CD Baby.

In April 2011, Morvan released the single "Anytime" on iTunes.[25]

Later developments

In 1991, Pilatus and Morvan appeared in a commercial for Carefree Sugarless Gum, which parodied their lip-syncing fiasco. They also appeared in an episode of the Super Mario Bros. cartoon and even signed with a PR firm in hopes of breaking into acting. As they told the L.A. Times, "We think we have the potential to become actors. After all, we got a lot of practice while we were in Milli Vanilli. But the most important thing to us now is the new album." [26]

The duo was featured (and interviewed) for the premiere episode of VH1's Behind the Music in 1997.

In 2000, Fab Morvan was featured in a BBC documentary titled It Takes Two: The Story of the Pop Duo about musical duos.

On 14 February 2007, it was announced that Universal Pictures was developing a film based on the story of Milli Vanilli's rise and fall in the music industry. Jeff Nathanson, screenwriter for Catch Me If You Can, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and producer executive Adam Yoelin, were supposed to write and direct the film while Fab Morvan served as a consultant.[27][28] However, in February 2011, it was announced the Milli Vanilli movie would be rewritten and directed by Florian Gallenberger.[29][30] The documentary "Milli Vanilli: From Fame to Shame" was eventually directed by German Oliver Schwehm, and produced by Hannah Lenitzki from Bremedia Produktion, released in 2016.[31]

In January 2014, the actual Milli Vanilli singers—Jodie Rocco and Linda Rocco, John Davis and Brad Howell—filmed an in-depth interview with the producers of Oprah: Where Are They Now for OWN TV. The show aired in the US on Friday, 21 February 2014.[citation needed] [32]

In 2015 TMZ reported that Fab Morvan was working on an album with John Davis, one of the original Milli Vanilli singers, called Face Meets Voice.[33]


Studio albums


  1. ^ "Milli Vanilli voice steps into the limelight". 17 February 2014.
  2. ^ "32nd Annual GRAMMY Awards – Best New Artist". Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  3. ^ Shriver, Jerry (28 January 2010). "Milli Vanilli frontman says duo were musical 'scapegoats'". USA Today. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  4. ^ Philips, Chuck (20 November 1990). "Milli Vanilli's Grammy Rescinded by Academy : Music: Organization revokes an award for the first time after revelation that the duo never sang on album". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ Philips, Chuck (16 November 1990). "It's True: Milli Vanilli Didn't Sing : Pop music: The duo could be stripped of its Grammy after admitting it lip-synced the best-selling 'Girl You Know It's True.'". LA Times.
  6. ^ "Milli Vanilli's Pilatus Dead At 32". 7 April 1998. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  7. ^ a b Marks, Craig; Tannenbaum, Rob (2011). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. New York, NY: Dutton. pp. 362–363. ISBN 9780525952305.
  8. ^ Cocks, Jay (5 March 1990). "Two Scoops Of Vanilli". Time Magazine.
  9. ^ djvlad (19 April 2017). "Fab on CD Skipping During Milli Vanilli Performance, Lip Syncing Rumors". Retrieved 12 October 2018 – via YouTube.
  10. ^ Goodman, Fred; Trakin, Roy (30 November 1990). "Artificial Vanilli". Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  11. ^ Jeff Meyer (17 November 1990). "Milli Vanilli Meltdown Angers Former Fans – latimes". Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  12. ^ a b AP (13 August 1991). "Judge Rejects Milli Vanilli Refund Plan -". New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 February 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ a b Reuters (31 August 1991). "Small Victory for Milli Vanilli Fans -". New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  15. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (30 September 1991). "Judge Sets Deadline For Milli Vanilli Records". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company: 32. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  16. ^ Maull, Samuel (December 7, 1990). "Songwriter-Singer Sues Milli Vanilli for Alleged Copyright Infringement". AP News.
  17. ^ a b
    • "Las Vegas Review-Journal". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
    • Gerber, Ron Boogiemonster. "Milli Vanilli: The First Album". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
    • Gerber, Ron Boogiemonster. "The second album: The Real Milli Vanilli". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
    • "TheRealMilliVanilli". TheRealMilliVanilli. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  18. ^ Hollywood agent and producer Sandy Gallin dead at 76 The Associated Press, April 22, 2017
  19. ^ Milli Vanilli: From Fame to Shame IMDb, 60min documentary, 23 July 2016
  20. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (19 February 1996). "Ex-Member Of Milli Vanilli Arrested For Terrorist Threat". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company: 16. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  21. ^ Pierre Perrone (6 April 1998). "Obituary: Rob Pilatus". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  22. ^ Chris, Willman. "The Sad Truth". p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  23. ^ Vena, Jocelyn; Elias, Matt (9 October 2009). "TLC Ready To 'Change People's Lives' With New Music". Retrieved 14 November 2009.
  24. ^ "Milli Vanilli's Pilatus Dead At 33". 7 April 1998. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2008.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  25. ^ "Anytime on iTunes".
  26. ^ "Girl You Know It's True: the rise and fall of Milli Vanilli 25 years later". CBC Music. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  27. ^ Nicole Frehsee (19 June 2008). "Girl, You Know It's True: Milli Vanilli Biopic Will Reveal the Truth (!) : Rolling Stone : Rock and Roll Daily". Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  28. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (15 September 2016). "Movie Reviews – The New York Times". Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  29. ^ "No Filter". Archived from the original on 2012-09-09.
  30. ^ "IFITSMOVIES – Serving you the best". Archived from the original on 15 February 2011.
  31. ^ Milli Vanilli: From Fame to Shame IMDb, 1h documentary, 23 July 2016
  32. ^ "Why Some of the "Real" Voices Behind Milli Vanilli Kept Quiet". OWNTV Season 3 Episode 308 Aired on February 21, 2014.
  33. ^ "Milli Vanilli man attempts comeback – with the man who actually sang the songs". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2015.

External links

  • MTV Artist Arena: Milli Vanilli
  • Allmusic entry for Milli Vanilli
Individual artists involved
  • Fabrice Morvan's official website
  • John Davis' official website
  • The Real Milli Vanilli's official website
  • Frank Farian's Website
  • Breaking stories about Milli Vanilli's Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan by Chuck Philips archived at the LA Times
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