Girl You Know It’s True: 11 Things You May Have Not Known About Milli Vanilli

By Michele Yeo

If you are of a certain age, the words Milli Vanilli bring back a flood of memories: the hit songs like Girl, You Know It’s True,’ ‘Baby Don’t Forget My Number,’ and ‘Blame it On The Rain,’ the trademark braids and super stylized outfits of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, their in sync dance moves, their Grammy win, and of course, their epic fall from grace when, in late 1990, they were exposed for not having sung a single note on their multi-platinum selling album Girl You Know It’s True.

The fallout was just as swift as their stratospheric rise and the duo went from on top of the world to a worldwide punchline. They were famously stripped of their Grammy award and became the target of every late night talk show host and radio DJ. Their CDs were steamrolled over in publicity stunts, lawsuits were filed, and the guys lost everything including, for Rob Pilatus, his life. After the brutal backlash, he spiralled into a deep depression and severe drug addiction and was found dead in a Frankfurt hotel room in 1998 at the age of 32.

Now, more than three decades after one of the music industry’s biggest scandals broke wide open, a new feature length documentary on Paramount + looks back at the massive controversy and its fatal fallout. Featuring present day interviews with those close to the con including former record executives, managers, backup singers, the real Milli Vanilli vocalists, and surviving member Fab Morvan, the doc attempts to shed new light on the pop culture catastrophe that defined a decade.

Here are 11 things revealed in the doc that you may have not known about Milli Vanilli.

Milli Vanilli Wasn’t Frank Farian’s First Fake
Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan met at a party in Germany in the 1980s and became fast friends. The guys had a mutual desire to become pop stars and started dancing, modelling, and performing in clubs. Eventually they caught the attention of famed music producer Frank Farian. Frank recruited the guys for a project he was working on. That project, of course, ended up being Milli Vanilli. But the duo weren’t his first manufactured hitmakers, Frank was also the mastermind behind Boney M who had a slew of hits in the ‘70s. But was frontman Bobby Farrell actually singing? Apparently no. Charles Shaw, one of the real singers on Milli Vanilli’s album, calls Frank “a genius at the art of making money,” and “a producer who has made most of his money on Black artists and it worked. Years later he came back and did it again with Milli Vanilli.”

Milli Vanilli Didn’t Read Their Contract
After being discovered by Frank, it was time for Rob and Fab to sign a record deal. One they didn’t actually end up reading. “Ingrid (Frank’s assistant) brought in the recording contract and we never really attempted to read it,” Fab reveals. “We’re not trying to say no to this powerful producer,” he adds. Fab says they were offered 15 hundred Deutsche Mark each to sign. “We were like hell yeah.” As you can imagine, this would go on to bite them in the ass.

Clive Davis Knew About The Con
Legendary music exec Clive Davis was the head of Arista Records when Arista became Milli Vanilli’s stateside label. Former label employees say it’s normal for a label rep to be in the studio during the recording of an album but no one from Arista was permitted in the studio in Germany during the recording of Girl You Know It’s True. While they found it strange, they didn’t pursue it further. “If an outside producer sends in the album credits, you have to take it on faith that it represents what actually happened in the studio.” says one former exec. Clive long maintained he had no idea the duo were a fraud but the documentary alleges the contrary. A former senior VP of Arista claims Clive knew six months before the 1990 Grammy Awards.

Diane Warren Wrote One of Their Hit Songs
Prolific songwriter Diane Warren, who would go on to write mega hits for artists like Celine Dion, Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, En Vogue as well as be nominated for multiple Grammys and Oscars, wrote one of Milli Vanilli’s smash singles, ‘Blame It On The Rain.’ “I had written ‘Blame It On The Rain’ when I was scheduled to see Clive,” she explains in the doc, “He said I want you to see this new group I have.” Diane thought her song would be a good follow up to Girl You Know It’s True and she was right – the song went to number one on the Billboard chart.

Nobody Wanted Milli Vanilli To Be Nominated for a Grammy
Normally a record company would be chomping at the bit to submit their artists for consideration by the Grammys, particularly acts who were as successful right out of the gate like Milli Vanilli. It seemed like a no-brainer to submit the duo into the Best New Artist category. However, execs decided against it as to not draw any more attention to the duo knowing they were fakes. Keep in mind this was when the Grammys were considered extremely prestigious. However, an enterprising employee at their management company, not knowing Milli Vanilli were frauds, submitted them and they ended up nominated. “Most everyone knew the secret. I did not,” he reveals. “When that ballot came out and Milli Vanilli was on it, everything hit the fan. Clive called and threw a hissy fit.”

And They Really Didn’t Want Them to Win That Grammy
On February 21, 1990 the biggest names in music gathered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for the 32nd annual Grammy Awards where Milli Vanilli walked away with the Best New Artist Grammy beating out acts like The Indigo Girls, Tone Loc, Soul II Soul, and Neneh Cherry. Charles Shaw, one of the actual singers on the album tells the doc, “Once they won the Grammy, they hung themselves.” Backup singer Jodie Rocco agreed saying, “the whole Milli Vanilli thing could have kept going if they had not been nominated for that Grammy.”

The Recording Academy Was Paid To Let Milli Vanilli Lip Sync at The Grammys
Not only did Milli Vanilli win a Grammy that night in 1990, they were also scheduled to perform. The hitch was, artists invited to perform at the Grammys are required to perform live which, of course, was not an option for Milli Vanilli. The doc claims the duo’s talent manager, Sandy Gallin paid off the Recording Academy to allow a playback track. Fabs refers to the performance as “nerve-wracking.”

The Success, As Ill-Begotten As It Was, Went to Their Heads
As much as their record label and management team baulked at their Grammy win, the guys leaned into it. In a big way and right away. Ingrid Segieth, Frank Farian’s assistant claims the guys blew off Paul McCartney and the night of their Grammy win and started issuing diva demands going forward. The duo famously gave an interview to Time magazine where they claimed to be “better than the Beatles.”

The Guys Knew The Jig Would Be Up Eventually
Despite all their posturing, Fab says he and Rob knew the clock was ticking and it was only a matter of time before the scam eventually blew up in their faces. “Lies are taking the elevator while the truth takes the stairs,” he says in the doc. “I knew some time the truth would rise,” he adds. “They were going to catch us at some point or another.” Fab adds the weight of it all was “very heavy” and they started drinking and taking drugs to cope and numb themselves.

The Infamous Viper Room Plays a Part in The Milli Vanilli Story
After the fraud was exposed and Rob and Fab were forced to give back their Grammys, lost everything, and became an international punchline, Rob descended into a deep depression and serious drug addiction. Rob and Fab eventually drifted apart and hadn’t seen each other in years when Fab happened upon Rob stumbling outside LA’s Viper Room in a drugged up stupor. “To actually see my brother in the street looking like this,, it was like, I didn’t know what to say,” Fab reveals. Fab took Rob back to where he was staying nearby, which Fab says was “like a crack house to me, man. They were doing heavy drugs in that room.” After multiple rehab stays and several arrests, Rob Pilatus died at age 32 of a drug overdose. He was found in his Frankfurt hotel room by Ingrid Segieth.

ABOVE: Fab Morvan in the Paramount + documentary Milli Vanilli, which is now streaming

Fab Morvan Has Found Happiness
More than three decades after the catastrophic controversy, Fab Morvan has found peace and happiness. He is now living in Amsterdam with his partner Tessa and their four children and has let go of years of shame. “There was a time when I would avoid going in public because when I heard someone laugh, I always thought it was directed to me,”  he says, “but now I’ve reached a point where I’ve embraced the past. I’m proud of being Milli Vanill.”

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