During the dance-pop explosion of the late 80’s, Milli Vanilli caught the public eye with their fresh look and slick dance moves. However, they inspired one of the great controversies in recent pop music history when it was discovered that neither one of the group’s members sang a note on any of their records. When this was revealed, the inevitable backlash that occurred wiped out their fame overnight. However, Milli Vanilli managed to achieve an astounding level of success in a short time and sold several million records before the truth was revealed.
Milli Vanilli began when Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus met in a Munich nightclub in the late 80’s. They soon came to the attention of Frank Farian, a dance music producer who scored countless European hits with Boney M in the 1970’s. He liked their matching heads of long braided hair and decided they would make the perfect frontmen for his latest studio creation. Farian put the faces of Rob and Fab on the cover of Girl You Know It’s True, the first Milli Vanilli album, while anonymous studio musicians secretly lent their voices to Farian’s electronic dance-pop confections.
By 1990, Milli Vanilli was an international sensation. Songs like “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl You Know It’s True” and “Blame It On The Rain” helped the group sell over 30 million singles. All four were good examples of album’s catchy mixture of percolating synthesizers, churning dance beats and poppy harmonies. Rob and Fab also appeared in videos for these songs, performing elaborate dance routines that were imitated by kids around the world. Milli Vanilli went on to sell 14 million records worldwide and also won the 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
However, Milli Vanilli’s fortunes changed rapidly the next year. When Rob and Fab pressured Frank Farian to be allowed to sing on the next Milli Vanilli album, he revealed to the world press that neither man sang on the first album. He also revealed that both performers lip-synched at the many concerts and appearances they did to promote their music. Arista Records promptly dropped the group from their label and the duo were also forced to return their Best New Artist Grammy. Rob and Fab recorded an album under their own names and performed live to prove they could sing, but the damage had already been done.
Both Rob and Fab continued to pursue show-business careers after Milli Vanilli faded away. Rob fell prey to drug addiction and died in 1998 but Fab began a successful career as a disc jockey and continues to write songs. In many ways, their career as Milli Vanilli represented the end of an era for the music business. From there on out, musicians would have to be 100% up-front about the nature of their work and the public and the press alike would be much more watchful of their pop idols.
- Watch Milli Vanilli’s Girl You Know It’s True Video
- Watch Milli Vanilli’s Baby Don’t Forget My Number Video