Milli Vanilli accepting a Grammy Award
In 1988 the German record producer Frank Farian discovered Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan (Rob and Fab) while they were living in Munich. Impressed by their charisma and chiselled good looks, Farian formed them into a pop group that he dubbed 'Milli Vanilli.'
Their success was almost instantaneous. They rocketed to stardom on the strength of their hit singles, Girl You Know It's True
and Blame It on the Rain
. Their debut album sold over seven million copies, and they won a 1989 grammy as best new artist.
But there was an ugly truth lurking behind the attractive façade presented by Rob and Fab: they possessed absolutely no musical abilities whatsoever. They couldn't play instruments, write music, or even sing. All of their songs had been created in a studio by professional musicians. Whenever Rob and Fab performed on stage, they simply lip-synched the words.
Embarrassed by the situation, Rob and Fab confronted Farian and insisted that he allow them to sing on their next album. Farian, however, had no interest in agreeing to this, so on November 14, 1990 he revealed in an interview that their act was a sham. The news rocked the music industry, and the media latched onto the story with a passion. For many cultural critics, Rob and Fab's deception seemed to be a perfect representation of the artificial, pre-packaged nature of the pop music industry itself.
Rob and Fab bravely tried to soldier on after the revelation. They recorded an album using their own names, but the effort failed miserably. Scorned by the music industry and ridiculed by the public, they drifted into the half-light of infamy and notoriety. In 1998 Rob Pilatus apparently succumbed to the cloud of censure hanging over him. He was found dead in a hotel room due to a drug overdose. He was only 32 years old.
Larry McShane, "Milli Vanilli Is Really a Marcel Marceau Act Music: Another group recorded the vocals that the 1989 Grammy-winning duo simply lip-sync, their producer says." Associated Press, November 15, 1990.
Text copyright © 2002 Alex Boese