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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.
Milli Vanilli was a pop and dance project created by Frank Farian in Munich, Germany, in 1988. The group was formed with Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. The group's debut album Girl You Know It's True achieved international success and earned them a Grammy Award for Best New Artist on February 21, 1990. Milli Vanilli became one of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, their success turned to infamy when their Grammy was revoked after LA Times author Chuck Philips revealed that lead vocals on the record were not the voices of Morvan and Pilatus.
When Frank Farian developed the concept of Milli Vanilli, he chose to feature vocals by Charles Shaw, John Davis, Brad Howell, and twin sisters Jodie and Linda Rocco; however, he felt that those singers lacked a marketable image. He then recruited Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, two younger model/dancers he found singing in a Munich club for a rehearsal. He felt that Pilatus and Morvan could provide the marketable image that the original singers lacked. According to VH1's Behind the Music, the single "Girl You Know it's True" had already been completed. Farian felt that no efforts should be focused in refining their singing voices. Instead, they were told to pose as singers, and lipsync to the prerecorded music.
In 2011, Morvan and Kim Marlowe, the band's former manager, claimed that Farian manipulated the two by giving them a large advance when he signed them. The pair spent most of it on clothes and hairstyling, then several months later Farian called them back and told them they had to lip sync to the prerecorded music or, per the contract, repay the advance in full. "We were not hired, we were trapped," Morvan recalled.
Milli Vanilli's debut album All or Nothing was released in Europe in mid-1988, featuring Rob and Fab's pictures on the cover, but no mention of who actually sang the songs. The success of the record caught the attention of Arista Records who signed the duo. Arista deleted several tracks from the original album, added several new ones (including a new track written by Diane Warren, "Blame It on the Rain"), remixed many of the tracks and renamed the album to Girl You Know It's True for release in the American market in early 1989.
This version of the album went six times platinum and led to the re-release of the title track, which peaked at number 2 on the Hot 100 in April of that year and was certified platinum. (The song was a cover version of a Numarx track published in 1987 on the US Bluebird label.) The U.K. release featured the original first album and the remix album together as "2 X 2". Even greater commercial success followed, as the pair's next three singles "Baby Don't Forget My Number", "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" and "Blame It on the Rain" all reached number 1. A fifth and final single "All or Nothing", also made the Top 5 in the beginning of 1990 in a remixed form which sampled the "Keep On Movin'" beat from UK soul act Soul II Soul. Milli Vanilli's meteoric rise to pop music superstardom culminated with a Grammy Award for Best New Artist on February 22, 1990.
Media backlash 
Beth McCarthy-Miller, then an executive with MTV, says the duo's poor English-language skills when they came in for their first interview with the channel stirred doubts among those present as to whether they had actually sung on their records. The first public sign that the group was lip-synching happened in late 1989 during a live performance on MTV at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut. As they performed onstage live in front of an audience, the recording of the song "Girl You Know It's True" jammed and began to skip, repeating the partial line "Girl, you know it's..." over and over on the speakers. They continued to pretend to sing and dance onstage for a few more moments, then they both ran offstage. According to the episode of VH1's Behind the Music which profiled Milli Vanilli, Downtown Julie Brown stated that fans attending the concert seemed neither to care nor even to notice, and the concert continued as if nothing unusual had happened. In a March 1990 issue of Time Magazine, Pilatus was quoted proclaiming himself to be "the new Elvis", reasoning that by the duo's success they were musically more talented than Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger.
Unlike the international release of All or Nothing, the inserts for the American version clearly attributed the voices on the album to Morvan and Pilatus. This prompted Shaw to disclose to New York Newsday writer John Leland in December 1989 that he was one of three singers on Milli Vanilli's hit debut album, and that Pilatus and Morvan were impostors. Farian reportedly paid Shaw $150,000 to retract his statements, though this did not stem the tide of public criticism. Because of rising public questions regarding the source of who actually sang in the group, as well as the insistence of Morvan and Pilatus to Farian that they be allowed to sing on the next album, Farian confessed to reporters on November 12, 1990, that Morvan and Pilatus did not actually sing on the records. As a result of American media pressure, Milli Vanilli's Grammy was withdrawn four days later. However, their three American Music Awards were never withdrawn because the organizers felt the awards were given to them by music consumers. Arista Records then dropped the act from its roster and deleted their album and its masters from their catalog, taking Girl You Know It's True out of print.
After these details emerged, at least 27 different lawsuits were filed under various U.S. consumer fraud protection laws against Pilatus, Morvan and Arista Records. One such filing occurred on November 22, 1990 in Ohio, where lawyers there filed a class-action lawsuit asking for refunds on behalf of a local woman in Cuyahoga County who had bought Girl You Know It's True; at the time the lawsuit was filed, it was estimated at least 1,000 Ohio residents had bought the album. On August 12, 1991, a proposed settlement to a refund lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois was rejected. This settlement would have refunded buyers of Milli Vanilli CDs, cassettes, records, or singles. However, the refunds would only be given as a credit for a future Arista release. On August 28, a new settlement was approved; it refunded those who attended concerts along with those who bought Milli Vanilli recordings. An estimated 10 million buyers were eligible to claim a refund and they could keep the refunded recordings as well. The deadline to claim refunds passed on March 8, 1992.
The Real Milli Vanilli 
The material for Milli Vanilli's second album had been recorded and finalized in Spring 1990. In the autumn, the first single "Keep on Running" was released for radio play, shortly before Farian revealed the truth about Milli Vanilli. At the last minute, Farian had the artwork to the second Milli Vanilli album changed to depict the actual singers instead of Morvan and Pilatus, changed the album's title from Keep on Running (the name had been meant to correspond with the first single), and changed the artist name to "The Real Milli Vanilli". However, the graphic artist who performed the change forgot to update the album cover's spine, so the second album still had the original artist and album name on the spine ("Milli Vanilli — Keep On Running").
The resulting album, released in Europe in early 1991, was renamed The Moment of Truth and spawned three singles, "Keep On Running," "Nice 'n Easy" and "Too Late (True Love)." A Morvan/Pilatus lookalike named Ray Horton was depicted on the cover and provided vocals on four tracks. In addition, the album featured rappers Icy Bro on "Hard As Hell" and Tammy T on "Too Late (True Love)." A Diane Warren-penned song, "When I Die," has been covered by several other artists, including Farian's No Mercy. For the American market, Farian chose to avoid any association with Milli Vanilli and had the tracks re-recorded with Ray Horton on the majority of lead vocals.
Try 'N' B 
In 1992, RCA signed on to release the album as the debut of the newly created group Try 'N' B. The self-titled release included three additional tracks not on The Real Milli Vanilli release: "Ding Dong," "Who Do You Love," and a remake of Dr. Hook's "Sexy Eyes." Because of significantly better sales under the name Try 'N' B in America, a slightly modified Try 'N' B debut album was released internationally. It featured guest singer Tracy Ganser, and a Ray Horton lookalike named Kevin Weatherspoon.
Rob & Fab 
Meanwhile, Morvan and Pilatus moved to Los Angeles, California, and signed to the Joss Entertainment Group, where they recorded their follow-up album under the name Rob & Fab. Almost all the songs on the album were written by Kenny Taylor and Fabrice Morvan, while Morvan and Pilatus provided the lead vocals. Because of financial constraints, Joss Entertainment Group was only able to release the album in the United States, the most critical of all markets to Milli Vanilli. A single, "We Can Get It On", was made available for radio play shortly before the album's release. However, the lack of publicity, poor distribution and their steep fall from the height of their pop-culture visibility after the lip-synching scandal contributed to its failure.
Milli Vanilli comeback and death of Rob Pilatus 
In order to restore their career, Farian agreed in 1997 to produce a new Milli Vanilli album with Morvan and Pilatus on lead vocals. This all led up to the recording of the 1998 Milli Vanilli comeback album Back and in Attack. Even some of the original studio singers backed the performers in their attempt to bring back some of the fame that had been shed so quickly. However, Rob Pilatus encountered a number of personal problems during the production of the new album. He turned to drugs and crime, committing a series of robberies and ultimately serving three months in jail in California. Farian paid for Pilatus to attend six months of drug rehabilitation and plane tickets for him to fly back to Germany. On the eve of the new album's promotional tour on April 2, 1998, Pilatus was found dead of a suspected alcohol and prescription drug overdose in a Frankfurt hotel room. Pilatus' death was ruled accidental.
Fab Morvan's solo career 
Morvan spent the following years as a session musician and public speaker while working on his musical abilities. In 1998, he was a DJ at famed L.A. radio station KIIS-FM. During this time, he also performed at the station's sold-out 1999 Wango Tango festival concert before 50,000 people at Dodger Stadium. Morvan then spent 2001 on tour before performing in 2002 as the inaugural performer at the brand-new Velvet Lounge at the Hard Rock Café Hotel in Orlando, Florida. In 2003, Morvan released his first solo album, Love Revolution. He marketed the album through his website and CD Baby.
In April, 2011, Morvan released the single "Anytime" on iTunes.
Later developments 
In 2000, Fab Morvan was featured in a BBC documentary titled It Takes Two: The Story of the Pop Duo about musical duos. He was also featured in the premiere episode of VH1 Behind the Music.
On February 14, 2007, it was announced that Universal Pictures was developing a film based on the story of Milli Vanilli's rise and fall in the music industry. Jeff Nathanson, screenwriter from Catch Me If You Can, Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall and Producer Executive Adam Yoelin were supposed to write and direct the film while Fab Morvan serves as a consultant. However, in February 2011, it was announced that Milli Vanilli movie will be rewritten and directed by Florian Gallenberger.