For a brief time in the late 80s, Milli Vanilli was one of the biggest musical acts in the world.
Known and adored for their hyper-catchy dance-pop hits and their iconic stylish fashion, the group, composed of French singer/songwriter Fab Morvan and German singer/dancer Rob Pilatus, sold millions upon millions of records around the world.
But in 1990 their meteoric rise to fame came to an abrupt and embarrassing end when it was revealed that neither Morvan nor Pilatus did any actual singing of any of their recordings or their live performances. Instead, it was revealed that all of their vocals had been performed by other yet-unknown singers.
This bombshell revelation was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli, leading to their eventual downfall and sparking numerous legal battles that caused significant losses for their record label.
The biggest scandal the music industry had ever seen still remains a topic of discussion for many fans who continue to question the identity of the real singers behind the group.
In today’s post, I’m going to answer that question and shed a bit more light on the scandal that rocked the music world.
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Who Were The Real Singers Of Milli Vanilli?
The real voices of the Milli Vanilli studio records and live vocal performances were session musicians John Davis, Charles Shaw, Brad Howell, Jodie Rocco, and Linda Rocco.
This group of singers/vocalists were hired by Milli Vanilli producer, Frank Farian, with the sole purpose of using them as studio vocalists in all Milli Vanillia recording sessions.
The real singers of Milli Vanilli were never credited, and they remained anonymous for many years.
When the scandal broke, it came as no surprise to those in the know because Frank Farian was famous around the music industry for using session performers to enhance the quality of recordings made by his signed artists and make hit records.
And it worked for a while.
How Successful Was Milli Vanilli Before The Scandal?
In the late 80s and the very early 90s, Milli Vanilli was one of the biggest and most successful acts in pop music around the world. With a string of catchy tunes, slick choreography, and impeccable fashion sense, the duo captivated audiences with their star power.
Before the lip-sync scandal broke, Milli Vanilli sold millions of records worldwide. Their North American debut album “Girl You Know It’s True” was a massive commercial success, selling over 6 million copies in the United States alone and earning multi-platinum certifications in various other countries.
The album also produced 5 singles which all entered the top 5 positions in Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, 3 of which hit the number 1 spot. Who can forget “Blame It on the Rain,” “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” and “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,”?
To top off their meteoric success, Milli Vanilli won the Grammy award for Best New Artist in 1990, as well as several other European music awards.
And then, it all came crashing down.
How Did The Milli Vanilli Scandal Break?
The Milli Vanilli scandal first broke on July 21st, 1989, during a concert at a theme park in Bristol, Connecticut.
Right in the middle of performing one of their greatest hits, “Girl You Know It’s True,” the backing track skipped and gave the audience their first indication that the group was lip-syncing their way through the set.
After this incident, rumors and speculation began to run rampant around music circles that the duo did not actually sing on their records or in their live performances. These rumors were further fueled by the fact that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were both highly evasive and defensive when asked directly about the matter.
Now that the cat was out of the bag, their thick French and German accents, which completely disappeared when they sang, did not help further their cause.
The moment of truth came when the rumors were finally officially confirmed by their producer in November of 1990. Frank Farian finally admitted that the members of Milli Vanilli did not actually sing on any of their records.
The pair had been nothing more than figureheads for a predatory marketing campaign that was solely designed to sell a product and make a lot of people a lot of money.
What Was The Aftermath Of The Milli Vanilli Scandal?
The direct aftermath of the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal was outright devastating for their career and, most importantly, their reputation. Their many hits quickly fell out of radio rotations, their sales plummeted, and their awards were gradually rescinded.
On a personal level, both Morvan and Pilatus faced intense scrutiny, criticism, and ridicule from both the media and their former fans.
They attempted to release a new album under their own names, but the savage mockery they experienced during the scandal killed any chances for its success.
Tragically, Rob Pilatus would go on to struggle with severe depression and crippling drug addiction, leading to his eventual untimely death in 1998.
So there we have it, singers John Davis, Charles Shaw, Brad Howell, Jodie Rocco, and Linda Rocco are the real voices of Milli Vanilli. The lip-synching couple of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan may have looked good on MTV but they never sang a note.
The Milli Vanilli scandal was a wake-up call for the music industry and highlighted the importance of authenticity in music. While the real singers behind the Milli Vanilli recordings may have remained unknown for a very long time, their role and contribution to the music industry should not be forgotten.