|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2011)|
Fab Morvan (left) and Rob Pilatus (right) with NARAS President C. Michael Greene, February 1990
|Also known as||Rob & Fab|
|Origin||Munich, West Germany|
|Genres||Dance, new jack swing, R&B, funk, hip hop|
|Associated acts||The Real Milli Vanilli
Rob & Fab
|Past members||Fab Morvan
Milli Vanilli was an R&B pop and dance project created by Frank Farian in Munich, West 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. Their success turned to infamy when the Grammy award was withdrawn after Los Angeles Times author Chuck Philips revealed that lead vocals on the record were not the voices of Morvan and Pilatus.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" was first produced by Jesse Powell and had already been completed. Farian felt that no efforts should be focused on refining his new singers' voices. Instead, they were told to lip-synch to the prerecorded music. Farian had done something similar with his earlier disco group Boney M, where he recruited four members (one a male exotic dancer), two of whom didn't sing in recordings. Farian added his own studio-augmented voice to recordings, using back-up singers to hide the other two members' voices live. This wasn't a secret, as Farian had discussed it in interviews at the time.
In 2011, Morvan and Kim Marlowe, Morvan's manager, claimed that Farian manipulated the two by giving them a small 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.
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 came on July 21, 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" played 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 of the album explicitly attributed the vocals 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 actual singers, 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. The album only sold around 2,000 copies.
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.
Back and in Attack remains unreleased.
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 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.
In 2000, Fab Morvan was featured in a BBC documentary titled It Takes Two: The Story of the Pop Duo about musical duos. The duo were also featured (and interviewed) 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.
In January 2014, the actual singers of Milli Vanilli (Jodie and Linda Rocco, John Davis and Brad Howell) filmed an in-depth interview with the producers of Oprah: Where Are They Now for OWN TV. The show aired in the US on Friday, February 21, 2014.
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- "Anytime on iTunes".
- IMDb: It Takes Two: The Story of the Pop Duo
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- Untitled Milli Vanilli at , by The New York Times,January 18, 2011
- IFC : Milli Vanilli" Movie Gets Rewrite And New Director, by Brandon Kim, February 16, 2011
- If It's Movies: The Milli Vanilli film finds Oscar-winning director, by Ryan Laster, February 12, 2011
- Individual artists involved
- Fabrice Morvan's official website
- John Davis' official website
- Frank Farian's Website
- Breaking stories about Milli Vanilli's Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan by Chuck Philips archived at the LA Times