The Milli Vanilli scandal was orchestrated by Frank Farian, internationally known as the founder and vocal behind Boney M

 
 

Frank Farian is a German record producer and songwriter, best known as the founder and the voice behind the 1970’s disco-pop group Boney M, but also, he was the mastermind and voice behind the lip-synching group Milli Vanilli. Farian was unorthodox in the way he nurtured new bands and performers.

He apparently had a tendency to create bands where he would shy away from the spotlight, and give them a distinct visual image from the recorded musical performances. This was the reason for a number of scandals throughout his career, and the Milli Vanilli surpasses them all.

Photo of Farian in 2008. photo credit

Frank always preferred to hire performers for live shows. At first, with Boney M, everybody thought that it was Bobby Farrel who was singing along with the other ladies of the group when, in fact, it was Farian himself all the while. Bobby was only allowed to record vocals for the band during the 1980’s, despite all group members singing live on all concert tours. Bobby was fired from working for the group in 1981 in any case, as conflicts had arisen.

After Boney M, Farian also started the supergroup Far Corporation and scored the UK chart with a top 10 hit, a cover version of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. In 1986, he also produced and mixed Meat Loaf’s album Blind Before I stop, also providing the backing vocals on one of the singles, Rock ‘n’ Roll Mercenaries, which was again credited to Meat Loaf and John Parr. Frank Farian was further involved with Eruption and No Mercy, but nothing rocked the news like his brainchild Milli Vanilli.

For those who remember, Milli Vanilli was a German R&B duo from Munich, and it consisted of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. The duo achieved international success with the debut album Girl You Know It’s True, for which they even won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist on 21 February 1990.

The story of Milli Vanilli starts in early 1988, when Farian recorded a group album with a couple of other vocalists, however, as the producer found none of them marketable, he went on to recruit dancer and models, Rober Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan to front the group once the album was released in the summer of that year.

Nowhere on the European record actually mentioned that the handsome frontmen were the ones singing the songs, but things changed for the American version. The album was excessively reworked and all original vocalists had vanished. Milli Vanilli rocked three number 1 hits and a Grammy for Best New Artist. By this point, Pilatus and Morvan had entirely become “Milli Vanilli”.

But something strange happened during a live MTV performance later in 1990. As the duo performed one of their greatest hits “Girl You Know It’s True”, the backing track failed, repeating the phrase “girl you know it’s true” over and over again. This showed that they were not really singing, but lip-syncing. Despite the fact that nobody at the concert really seemed to notice or even care, the performance was noted by the media which started to investigate the group’s recordings.

Fab Morvan (left) and Rob Pilatus (right) pose with National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy) president Mike Greene at the 1990 Grammy Awards. photo by Alan Light

Following these events, on November 12, 1990, Farian finally admitted that Morvan and Pilatus did not sing the Milli Vanilli’s song. A couple of days later, the duo had the Grammy award they had received taken away from them.

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It leads us to one final question: if it wasn’t for this one technical “hiccup” on a dance show filled with lights, microphones, and dancing, would we have ever found out the truth about Milli Vanilli?