What happened to Milli Vanilli?

8 January 2020, 15:38

Milli Vanilli
Milli Vanilli. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Milli Vanilli were one of the biggest groups on the planet.

But their star faded almost as quickly as it arrived, after it was revealed that they apparently weren't singing on their hits.

Stripped from their fame and success after a whirlwhind couple of years, it's hard not to feel sorry for Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, as it's hard to believe it would be such a huge scandal in today's world.

But what happened to the duo after their fall from grace?

  1. Who were Milli Vanilli and what were their biggest hits?

    Milli Vanilli were a German R&B duo from Munich.

    The duo was founded by Frank Farian in 1988, and consisted of singers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus.

    Their debut album, titled All or Nothing in Europe and later called Girl You Know It's True in the US, achieved huge success around the world and won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1990.

    Their biggest hits included 'Girl You Know It's True' (#2 in the US and #3 in the UK), 'Baby Don't Forget My Number' (#1 US), 'Blame it on the Rain' (#1 US) and 'Girl I'm Gonna Miss You' (#1 US, #2 UK).

  2. Did they sing on their records?

    Music producer Frank Farian discovered the duo, and invited them to his Frankfurt studio to listen to a demo.

    Farian signed the duo, but their singing in the studio did not impress him. "These two guys came into the studio, they recorded, but they didn't have enough quality," Farian said.

    The final version of 'Girl You Know It's True' was finished by studio performers — including Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howell.

    The duo toured Spain, France and Italy, lip syncing to the pre-recorded tracks. Pilatus later said: "We would ask Frank when are we going to be allowed to give some (artistic) input and he would say, 'Yeah, yeah, but right now we need you to go out and do promotion. Of course, you'll get to do it, just work with us.' That's how he strung us along."

    Milli Vanilli with Frank Farian
    Milli Vanilli with Frank Farian. Picture: Getty

    "After Frank released the album, he told us that it was too late to stop now," Pilatus added. "Because the single was such a big success, he said, 'Now you have to go through with it. I'll cover you guys. Nobody will find out.'

    "He said, 'Here, I'll give you $20,000 advance money.' We never had a hit before, so we went along with it. We played with fire and now we know, but it's too late."

    The first doubts emerged when MTV executive Beth McCarthy-Miller noticed their English language skills when they came in for their first interview.

    On July 21, 1989, during a live performance on MTV, the recording of a song jammed and skipped.

    "I knew right then and there, it was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli," said Pilatus. "When my voice got stuck in the computer, and it just kept repeating and repeating, I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I just ran off the stage."

    Unlike the international release of their first album, the inserts for the American version attributed the vocals to Morvan and Pilatus. This led to singer Charles Shaw to reveal in December 1989 that he was actually one of the three vocalists. Farian is said to have paid Shaw $150,000 to take back his statements.

    On November 14, 1990, Farian announced that he had fired the group and confessed they did not sing on the records. Pilatus confirmed this in an article with the Los Angeles Times.

    "The last two years of our lives have been a total nightmare," he said. "We've had to lie to everybody. We are true singers, but that maniac Frank Farian would never allow us to express ourselves."

    Milli Vanilli's 1990 Grammy for Best New Artist was later revoked. At a press conference, they sang and rapped for the room to prove that they could actually sing if they were allowed.

  3. What did they do next?

    Morvan and Pilatus moved to Los Angeles, and signed with the Joss Entertainment Group.

    They recorded a second album under the name Rob & Fab, releasing it in 1993, with Morvan and Pilatus singing the lead vocals.

    However, due to a lack of publicity and poor distribution, coupled with their fall from grace, the album only sold around 2,000 copies.

  4. What happened to Rob Pilatus?

    Rob Pilatus
    Rob Pilatus. Picture: Getty

    Farian later agreed to produce a new Milli Vanilli album with Morvan and Pilatus on lead vocals in 1997.

    A comeback album titled Back and In Attack was recorded a yea larter, but Rob Pilatus had struggled with a number of personal problems by this point.

    He had turned to drugs and crime, and committed a series of assaults and robberies, later being sentenced to three months in jail and six months in a drug rehab facility.

    Farian bailed Pilatus out of jail, but on the night before the new album's tour on April 2, 1998, Pilatus was found dead of a suspected alcohol and prescription drug overdose in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany. He was aged just 32.

  5. What is Fab Morvan doing now?

    Morvan spent the next years working as a session musician and public speaker, while also writing and performing his own music.

    Over the next few years he went out on tours and released his debut solo album Love Revolution in 2003.

    In 2019, he spoke to Yahoo about his time with Milli Vanilli 30 years on from their success - watch the interview above.

    In recent years, he was worked as a singer-songwriter, DJ, and product spokesman in the Netherlands for KFC’s 'Value Campaign'.