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Milli Vanilli

Milli Vanilli. The mere mention of the name still calls up the same derision it did when the dance-pop duo's career came to a sudden and ignominious end: Fakers. Frauds. A blatant marketing scam. Their story has been retold countless times: after selling millions of records, Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan were revealed to be models who publicly lip-synced to tracks recorded by anonymous studio vocalists. They became the first act ever stripped of a Grammy award and came to symbolize everything people disliked about dance-pop: it was so faceless that every musician involved could remain anonymous without anyone knowing the difference, so mechanical and artificial that the people who constructed it had to hire models to give it any human appeal, so pandering and superficial that people bought it just for its attachment to a pretty face. Whether that assessment was fair or not, it was beyond easy to hold Milli Vanilli in contempt. Yet for all the scapegoating, they were far from the only dance-pop act to be fronted by lip-syncers in the late '80s (the Martha Wash-voiced Black Box and C+C Music Factory spring to mind), nor were they the only Europop act to employ similar marketing tactics. (They were simply the most successful and visible, since their incorporation of rap made them more appealing to Americans.) What's more, pop music had a long tradition of hits recorded by anonymous studio musicians, dating back to '50s instrumental combos and '60s bubblegum. Milli Vanilli had the bad luck to get caught in a hoax during the extraordinarily image-conscious MTV era and a time when dance music of any stripe was accorded virtually no critical respect anyway, before its producers were perceived as the real creative points of focus. It's not as though Milli Vanilli were acclaimed for their honesty of expression before the scandal broke; it's more likely that what fueled the backlash was public resentment over Rob and Fab's celebrity (why should they be famous if they couldn't sing?) and embarrassment over the fact that Milli Vanilli's marketing had worked like a charm on everyone right up through the Grammy committee.

Milli Vanilli was the brainchild of German producer Frank Farian, who'd previously masterminded the European disco group Boney M. and the session-musician rock outfit Far Corporation. Seeking to fuse European dance-pop with elements of American rap, Farian assembled a number of session musicians and vocalists, including rapper Charles Shaw (an Army veteran) and two middle-aged American singers living in Germany, Johnny Davis and Brad Howell (some accounts give his name as Howe). Realizing that he had a marketable record but a distinctly unmarketable image, Farian hired two aspiring models and former breakdancers, Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, to pretend to be the group in videos, concerts, interviews, and the like. Pilatus had been born in New York in 1965, but grew up in Munich, spending some time in an orphanage after his parents (an American soldier and German stripper) gave him up for adoption. Morvan was born in 1966 on the island of Guadeloupe, lived in Miami for a time, and moved with his mother to Paris; he had been a skilled trampoline athlete until he suffered a neck injury in a fall. Both skilled dancers, the two had met sometime circa 1984 (differing accounts list their meeting place as Munich, Paris, or Los Angeles) and were attempting to make it as singers, dancers, models, or whatever they could. Their exotic look and long dreadlock extensions were just what Farian was looking for.

Milli Vanilli's first album, All or Nothing, was released in Europe in 1988 and was an instant success. Retitled Girl You Know It's True (after the lead single) and trimmed a bit, the record was issued in the U.S. in early 1989. Its catchy, lightweight pop-rap proved equally popular with American audiences; "Girl You Know It's True" raced up the pop charts to number two, and the next three Milli Vanilli singles -- "Baby Don't Forget My Number," the ballad "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," and the Diane Warren-penned "Blame It on the Rain" -- all hit number one. Despite near-universal critical distaste (Farian's productions often recycled the same sounds and drum tracks), Girl You Know It's True sold an astounding seven million copies in the U.S. alone; internationally, Milli Vanilli sold approximately 30 million singles. In December 1989, as the fifth single "All or Nothing" was climbing the charts on its way to the Top Five, rapper Charles Shaw revealed to a New York reporter that Pilatus and Morvan had not actually sung any vocals on the album. Shaw quickly retracted his statements (apparently paid off by Farian to keep quiet), claiming that they were merely a PR stunt for his own album. Milli Vanilli was soon nominated for a Grammy award for Best New Artist, even though the rumors continued to swirl. And in early 1990, they won it, for the record beating out the Indigo Girls, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, and Tone-Loc.

Success (or at least fame) was beginning to go to the duo's heads, particularly Pilatus, who was given to extreme mood swings and erratic behavior, and developed a cocaine problem. In an interview with Time magazine, Pilatus compared himself and Milli Vanilli favorably to Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, and Mick Jagger, and was roundly ridiculed for his statements. Additionally, Pilatus and Morvan had been pressuring Farian to let them sing all the vocals on the next Milli Vanilli album. Exasperated with them, Farian exposed the whole scheme in November 1990 and the public was furious. Pilatus and Morvan were stripped of their Grammy (ironically, the committee had justified its vote by citing the duo's "visual impact"), and a class-action suit was filed against Arista Records, allowing anyone who believed they'd been defrauded into purchasing the group's records to apply for a rebate. Arista dropped the group and deleted Girl You Know It's True from their catalog, making it the biggest-selling album ever taken out of print.

In 1991, Farian attempted to re-form Milli Vanilli with the original session vocalists (including female backup singer Gina Mohammed), this time crediting them and billing them as the Real Milli Vanilli, while also adding a Pilatus/Morvan look-alike named Ray Horton. However, the resulting Moment of Truth album flopped. Pilatus, meanwhile, was unable to deal with the sudden fall from grace; after mixing alcohol and prescription drugs, he slashed one of his wrists in a Los Angeles hotel, then called police and reporters to the scene, where he had to be removed from the balcony he was threatening to jump off of. Attempting to prove that they really could sing if given the chance, Pilatus and Morvan regrouped in 1993 as Rob & Fab; however, with their credibility damaged beyond repair, their self-titled debut reportedly sold only 2,000 copies total, despite an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. Farian had also attempted yet another album, this time renaming his group Try 'N' B and retooling the lineup again to enhance its visual appeal (which meant discarding the original singers); however, Sexy Eyes also stiffed. From there, Pilatus hit rock bottom. Beginning in 1995, he was arrested for several separate incidents in Los Angeles involving assaults (including one man he attacked with a metal lamp base), vandalism, and attempting to break into a car. Convicted of four different misdemeanors, he was sentenced to several months in jail in 1996, and did the first of numerous stints in drug rehab centers for his cocaine addiction. Pilatus eventually returned to Germany; in April 1998, his body was found in a Frankfurt hotel room after he mixed a fatal combination of pills and alcohol. Morvan continues to pursue a solo career. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: All Or Nothing

1. Can't You Feel My Love

2. Boy In The Tree

3. Money

4. Dance With A Devil

5. I'm Gonna Miss You

6. All Or Nothing

7. Baby Don't Forget My Number

8. Dreams To Remember

9. Is It Love

10. Ma Baker

11. Girl You Know It's True

12. Hush

13. Too Much Monkey Business

x

Track List: Girl You Know It's True

1. Girl You Know It's True

2. Baby Don't Forget My Number

3. More Than You'll Ever Know

4. Blame It On The Rain

5. Take It As It Comes

6. It's Your Thing

7. Dreams To Remember

8. All Or Nothing

9. I'm Gonna Miss You

Comments

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I love milli vanilli first time I heard their song on the radio I was in second grade n till this day I still bump their music ! Yea!
Report as inappropriate
Who doesn't lip sing every concerts I been too it's never them really singing but who cares as long as they keep jamming good songs like these . Yolo
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im only 16 but I love them. they were wrong for doing that to them. I love them and all there songs
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This is the group that I was so in love with in high school ,,, would love to see them in. concert !!! They still rock 20 years lateral
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I Personally Loved Milli Vanilli, and when the story Broke I Refused to give up or destroy my copy of their tape! I Still Enjoy Their Music, and they had much better sound and lyrics then current groups that call themselves musicians but, in reality are totally Enhanced!! Everyone has a Gimmick... They Were paid to do a Job, Unfortunatel y their Producer was the Sleazeball!
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The difference with them and the Monkeys?
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DONT READ THIS. YOU WILL BE KISSED ON THE NEAREST POSSIBLE FRIDAY BY THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE. TOMORROW WILL BE THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE. NOW YOUVE STARTED READING THIS DONT STOP THIS IS SO FREAKY. But if you read this and ignore it then you will have very bad luck. PUT THIS ON 15 SONGS IN 143 MINS. WHEN YOU ARE DONE PRESS THE SPACEBAR AND YOUR CRUSHES NAME WILL APPEAR IN BIG LETTERS ON THE SCREEN THIS IS SO FREAKY IT ACTUALLY WORK
Report as inappropriate
Ooo ooo ooo ... I love youuu!!! ������❤️✨
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Yaaass!!!
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I dont care what anyone says i love milli vanilli and their music
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This song was the jam when it came out and still is !
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jcymari.love
Great song... Love this music!!
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Now this a real love song
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Best song EVER. Don't cart who sung it. Still LOVE Milli Vanilli
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Love the song regardless of who sings it! Great song !
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Music is still music regardless of who sings it!! Still stands the test o' time, know I mean?
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brian31514
so ironic these guys were humiliated for something most artists do today!
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Still love these songs.
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Funniest bio I ever read
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brian31514
yes i know it's true that most singers lip sync. LOVE THIS SONG still
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Good memories back in the 90's
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B B B B BABYYYYYYYYY Y !
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Good song back in the day
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Great cd regardless of who did the singing love those guys
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Milli Vanilli is awesome I love there music so much I was born too late!!!!!!
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Rob is missed dearly what a tragedy
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Love Milli Vanilli
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brian31514
milli vanilli were ahead of their times because most of todays artists lip sync. i still love this group!
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I'm sorry! I still like the songs and the beat....it's upbeat and cool!
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Blame it on the rain
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I love milli vanilli
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BA BA BABBBBBBBBBB Y !
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You could have told her you were sorry but no you couldn't do that!
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Yo crecí con esta música yeahhhhhhhh
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While they were busted, the music will not be forgotten.
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BA BA BABY DONT FORGET MY NUMBER!
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perkins_14
milli vanilli will live on in my heart forever!!!!
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Love this and all or nothing
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Girl you know it's true!
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Now one of them died and the other sang live
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People act as if Milli Vanilli were only group lip syncing. They were just only ones who just got caught. Regardless of what people think they were awsome performers.
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BA BA BA BA BABY DONT FORGET MY NUMBER!
Report as inappropriate
No matter what these guys did. everyone makes mistakes there still humans just like me and u let them be at peace I will continue to listen to there music no matter what people say or think about them life goes on no matter what I heard these guys when I got my first real job back in 1988 and meet my first girlfriend and from this day we are still together so I just wanna say thanks Milli vanilli for all the good memories. !!!!!
Report as inappropriate
wayrastar
Blame it on the rain........ l o v e for 15 years now...
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wayrastar
blame it on the rain, love it now for 15 years now
Report as inappropriate
Blame it on the Rain
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Love it
Report as inappropriate
Im lip syncing and its true
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OMG! GIRL YOU KNOW ITS TRUE!
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I'm so in love girl! LOL! They were great!
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