Milli Vanilli

Milli Vanilli Artistfacts

  • 1988-1991
    Fabrice MorvanVocals
    Rob PilatusVocals
  • Rob and Fab met in an LA dance club, moved back to Munich and made money by appearing in videos and working in a post office. Producer Frank Farian, whose group Boney M sold millions of records worldwide, set them up to bring some of his musical creations to life. He used them only as the face, not the voice, for the songs.
  • Pilatus grew up in Munich, Germany. He was the son of a German exotic dancer and a US soldier. Morvan was born in Guadeloupe, but grew up in Miami and Paris. He was an aspiring athlete until a neck injury sidelined him.
  • Regarding the band name, some publicity materials claimed it was a Turkish phrase for "Positive Energy" even though "Vanilli" doesn't mean anything in Turkish and "Milli" means "National." The name actually came from a defunct disco in Berlin.
  • In 1988, shortly after Girl You Know It's True, became a hit in Europe, their real rapper Charles Shaw declared that Rob and Fab were frauds, but was reportedly paid a tidy sum of money to retract his statement. According to Farian, his payout was $155,000.
  • Farian made an announcement on November 14, 1990 that Rob and Fab never sang a note on any Milli Vanilli record. Five days later, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences retracted their Best New Artist Grammy, the first time a Grammy had been taken back.
  • They always lip-synched their performances, but at a concert in Bristol, Connecticut (home of ESPN), their recorded track skipped, repeating the line "Girl you know it's..." over and over. Pilatus and Morvan sung with it for a little while, then ran off stage. The crowd didn't seem to care, and it didn't effect the group's fortunes - they had three more hits after the incident. The media made a big deal out of it only when the scandal started to break.
  • In 1991, Farian released a record from "The Real Milli Vanilli," which featured vocals from Brad Howell and John Davis, who had performed the actual vocals on many of Milli Vanilli's hits.
  • In 1993, Pilatus and Morvan released a record as Rob and Fab. They performed a song from it on The Arsenio Hall Show, but It was a complete flop. According to one source, only 3000 copies were even pressed.
  • Pilatus died in 1998 after overdosing on a combination of drugs and alcohol. He was 32.
  • Milli Vanilli was the subject of one of the first episodes of VH1's Behind The Music. They produced it shortly before Pilatus died, and had to change the ending as a result.
  • The group sold over ten million records worldwide over the course of their career.
  • The first sign that things weren't right with Milli Vanilli was in Pilatus had attempted suicide once before, in 1991, after a romantic breakup and the failure of his career.
  • There are two sides to this story: Rob and Fab felt manipulated and underpaid, with Fab telling the L.A. Times: "Our producer tricked us. We signed contracts as singers but were never allowed to contribute. It was a nightmare."

    Farian told the same newspaper that he paid them $2.1 million, but Pilatus wanted more and forced his hand. Said Farian: "I've never heard such a bad singer. They wanted to sing. They wanted to write songs. It never happened. They went instead to discos till 4 a.m. and slept all day. All they ever really did was party. Someone who lives like that can't make good music."
  • When the truth was revealed about Milli Vanilli, lawsuits started flying, and since Morvan and Pilatus were listed as vocalists on the album credits, there was fraud and a Chicago court ruled that Arista would have to give rebates of up to $3 to anyone filing a claim who could prove that they purchased the Girl You Know It's True album. About 80,000 claims were filed.
  • Milli Vanilli didn't rate very well with black audiences despite the color of their frontmen. They didn't make the R&B charts and were lampooned on the TV show In Living Color.

Comments: 12

  • TracyIt's not a big deal. So they made a mistake, everyone does and you learn from it and go forward walking away from the mistake and move on to another point of your life and try your best you can't do better than your best that would be perfect, does anyone really know what perfect is.also they had that secret but who doesn't have a secret at some point in life.
  • Samantha from GeorgiaYou can't really blame Rob and Fab. They were in their early 20's, were being offered (And gained) fame, money, all the perks of stardom. I don't think many young people would turn that down
  • Jessica from Newton, NcI agree,they did have minds of their own and could have told Frank Farian to kiss their butts,but we still can't blame Rob and Fab for everything.They wern't the only lip syncers in the 80's,just the ones who got the wistle blown on them.i think the media blew it out of prportion because many people were in the dark about so mnay lip syncers there really were.(and maybe their wasn't any new,mind blowing stories out there at the time)I'm not taking up for these guys,but I don't point my finger soley at them.
  • Thora from Athens, Greeceguys i think u over reacting,the whole matter got too far. it was just a human mistake of 2 adult people. and hey mistakes are human. everybody say lies every day big or small.They just had to admit it and apologised. In nobody deserve this humiliating treatment.The press is like a monster who shallow you slowly...any famous person know that well. Press is responsible for the death of princess diana and so many other cases. people u should be stronger!
  • K from Toronto, CanadaTeresa, don't forget: these guys (supposedly) had brains of their own. No one was holding a gun to their heads forcing them to stick around & release fake albums. They were adults, they had a CHOICE; they could have said to Frank Farian "hey man, up yours." Millions of people adored these guys and spent so much money on their records. They LIED to the entire world. The fact that you're saying crap like "who cares whether these guys sang the songs" and "they were gorgeous!" just shows how shallow you are. You're right about one thing, though...they WERE Milli Vanilli...and Milli Vanilli were complete FRAUDS.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScJoe I have to agree with Kelly. The other bands that you listed actually sang their vocals. In the case of the Monkeys though, they didn't play their own instruments, at least at first.
  • Kelli from Cedar Rapids, IaWell, the difference is that the artists you have listed actually performed the vocals on the records they sell. Although they often lip sync for public performances (which is lame beyond belief, don't get me wrong) they are still lip syncing to their own voices.
    Maybe Milli Vanilli should have marketed themselves as a dancing duo....
  • Jo from Newcastle, AustraliaWhy is this story any different to the countless other manufactured pop stars.. or artists caught out miming.. in the history of music?
    (Do the names Stock Aitken Waterman, Spice Girls, Ashlee Simpson, Betty Boo, and the original pre-fab four: The Monkees, ring any bells?)
    Sad that a man lost his life over it though.
  • Ass from Holy Waters, Utblame the record company, not the the two fakes, hell, they were rakin' in cash. and i would probably do the same thing. the producer was an idiot for doing what he did. the album is really not that bad is it? it sold 30 million copies didn't it?
  • Teresa from GijÃ?n, SpainWho cares whether these guys sang the songs themselves? They WERE Milli Vanilli, their videos were great, the music was fun and they were gorgeous. The way the press hunted them down like dogs, ultimately driving Rob Pilatus to suicide, was absolutely obscene. They should have gone after the "inventor" of the whole fraud, producer Frank Farian.
  • Nickc from Ft. Wayne, InOK, I suppose this whole thing should bother me more than it does or ever has, but I don't know... I liked their recordings and I thought their videos were pretty cool. The fact that the guys who appeared on stage and in the videos didn't sing on the recordings didn't change that I thought their dancing was cool or that the recordings were excellently produced, well sung, and fund to listen to.
  • Rod from Davao City, Otherpilatus and morvan appeared in a bubblegum commercial after they exposed as frauds as an atempt to revive their careers.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Rick Springfield

Rick SpringfieldSongwriter Interviews

Rick has a surprising dark side, a strong feminine side and, in a certain TV show, a naked backside. But he still hasn't found Jessie's Girl.

Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots

Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple PilotsSongwriter Interviews

Stone Temple Pilots bass player Robert DeLeo names the songs that have most connected with fans and tells the stories behind tracks from their Tiny Music album.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino EditionMusic Quiz

Whether he's splitting ears or burning Nazis, Quentin Tarantino uses memorable music in his films. See if you can match the song to the scene.

Dar Williams

Dar WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

A popular contemporary folk singer, Williams still remembers the sticky note that changed her life in college.

Five Rockers Who Rolled With The Devil

Five Rockers Who Rolled With The DevilSong Writing

Just how much did these monsters of rock dabble in the occult?

Dave Mason

Dave MasonSongwriter Interviews

Dave reveals the inspiration for "Feelin' Alright" and explains how the first song he ever wrote became the biggest hit for his band Traffic.