April 14, 2012

Milli Vanilli

Now judge all you want, and I know it seems like shallow subject but no more shallow than talking about shoes or nailpolish in my opinion. I have somewhat of a fascination with Milli Vanilli. I just find it a very interesting and tragic story.

If you're too young to know or lived under a rock at the time, Milli Vanilli were a popular duo in the late eighties/early nineties, with hits such as Girl, You Know It's True, Blame It On The Rain and Girl I'm Gonna Miss You. They rose to super stardom with their catchy tunes, good looks and dance moves but their careers came crashing down when it was revealed they didn't sing a note on their record. They were lip syncing and just were the facade for what greedy record executives had created.

Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan came to the US from Europe and wanted to make it in the business. They were young and very foolish to have signed a contract without  a lawyer or manager present. Eager to become stars, they thought they would be singers. It's reported that there were always excuses about why they wouldn't record until they learned that they would not be singing on their album, but only playing the part in videos and live performances. The duo became caught up in the fame, money and success but admitted at the end of the day they felt horrible and fake. They even won a Grammy for best new artist in 1990. Rob and Fab later had to return the award when the truth was discovered.

In 1989, during a live show, the recording jammed and played the same line over and over while the guys panicked and ran off stage. Soon after, record executive, Frank Farian, admited they were not singing on the ablum. It seemed that Rob and Fabrice were unfairly left to deal with the brunt of the repercussions and judgment. They were the laughing stocks of the music industry. They even did a chewing gum commercial depicting them lip syncing opera and the voice over states that the flavor will last "Until these guys sing for themselves"  as they shrug innocently.

Rob and Fab tried to make their own album in the late nineties but sadly Rob Pilatus died of a drug and alcohol  overdose just one day before the new album's press tour was to begin. His death was ruled accidental but he had been depressed for a while and attempted suicide before.

I personally think that they were used and deceived. They were stuck under contract and forced to continue the lie. A lot of people in the music industry knew they weren't singing. Tell me how it's very different than any number of "artists" today, who auto tune their songs and never sing live? I think they would have had probably the same success if they were allowed to sing themselves. The songs sold themselves and they had a great look. Fabrice Morvan performed old Milli Vanilli hits later on and did quite well. You can find it on Youtube somewhere. 

Hind sight is 20/20 but knowing now, it seems obvious that they weren't singing. They'd often not have the mic up at the right times and their English wasn't that great, but at the time, people didn't care. They were hugely popular and lots of singers from abroad speak with an accent yet sing in an American one. It's a shame they were so heavily criticized  and that the whole debacle probably started Rob's downward spiral, eventually leading to his death at the age of  34.

There is talk of a movie about the rise and fall of Milli Vanilli in 2013 and I will be interested to see it, for sure. I'm not sure why I'm drawn to this story, it's gripping isn't it? What do you think of the group, the songs, the scandal, all of it?


  1. I always thought it was a sad commentary on the viscious side of the music industry. I do think they were coerced into it and the way they were treated by the media was far worse than the deception.

    1. Yea, good point. Image is everything. Video killed the radio star.

  2. I absolutely adored Milli Vanilli before the scandal broke...and even afterwards, I really didn't care that they were not singing themselves. In South Africa at the time, there were a lot of bad/sad Milli Vanilli jokes going around (one of the milder one's was, if people thought you were fake, they called you Milli Vanilli) which just made me fed up to the point that I stopped wanting to know anything about them. Therefore I really didn't know what happened to the guys afterwards :(

    You're right, this is a gripping story and the guys certainly paid a heavy price! As for the songs, I still sing along when I hear them which admittedly is very rarely...

    1. Oh you know I have Girl You Know It's True on my "cleaning" playlist. I've had "It's a tragedy for me to see, the dream is ooooverrrr" in my head since last night.

  3. I was a little too young, but i do know them from after the scandal.
    Sad story.

  4. I remember Milli Vanili - it's a really sad story :-(

  5. Salaam Alaikum,

    Their treatment by the music industry was very cruel. For such a "light" industry, it can still destroy many lives.

    What is interesting is at the time, there were a wave of hits by bands featuring models miming the songs, Black Box, C+C Music Factory, Technotronic (the two former songs featuring the vocals of Martha Wash - here is something interesting about that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Wash well worth reading) but that wasn't seen as a big issue.

    Also, Frank Farian, the man behind Milli Vanilli did the same with his earlier act, Boney M. The male member of the band never sang on any of their songs, it was all Farian, but again, no one was really bothered.

    P.S Don't Forget My Nunmber is my favourite MV song.

  6. Anonymous7:52 PM

    I heard "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" on the 80s station the other day and immediately got happy b/c OMG...Milli Vanilli!!! Then got SAD b/c OMG..The music industry can be so horrible at times. Totally believe Rob's downward spiral was due to all this craziness...

  7. haha.. oh boy, ya I remember them!!
    ... I had no idea what happened to them either.

    Thanks for sharing..interesting :)

  8. Anonymous7:47 PM

    Those young men are drop dead gorgeous. I too have been fascinated by the whole story and I've read whatever I could find, especially articles pertaining to Rob. Yes, they were used and Farian knew exactly what he was doing. He had 2 young, naive dancers who never thought things would go as far as they did. Fabrice was finally able to gather a decent perspective and go on with his life. But Rob's story just hurts my heart. He was not adopted until he was four. He said he always felt like an outsider. His adoptive dad he said, was very critical of him, to the point where he ran away from home. He becomes a star, and this became his identity. When that avenue is no longer available he can't cope with it. I just wish there had been someone around to help him. They both talked of being very alone in it all. His death was unnecessary and in an industry that is as flaky as a cornflake, did any person or persons try to reach out to them? I think of people like Whitney and others who are surrounded by people who watch them self destruct. I know the final decisions belong to the person, but damn. Anybody take Rob to task before the addiciton got real bad? I don't know. I just which the story had a different ending, so I;m just venting. Fabrice wrote and sings a beautiful song he dedicated to his friend, called, This is your life.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You're so right, it's so tragic when people are surrounded by enablers and no one steps up and says enough. I'll look up that song.


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