The meteoric rise and fall of two pop stars was big news in 1989 with the release of the album Girl You Know Its True by German duo Milli Vanilli.
Formed by producer Frank Farian in Germany in 1988, the band was initially five members, with two young dancers, Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, adding the necessary sizzle to get the band noticed.
The band’s first album was All or Nothing, featuring Rob and Fabrice on the album, and not including the other five singer/musicians. The album’s liner notes didn’t include any details of who were the vocalists.
The album did well in the European marketplace, prompting the band to be signed by Arista Records, who reformatted the album and added the single Blame it on the Rain and renamed the album Girl You Know Its True to be released in 1989 in the United States.
The album was a smash hit in the US market – the title track was re-released as the album sold millions of copies, and was eventually certified six times platinum.
The singles Blame it on the Rain, Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Baby Don’t Forget My Number and All or Nothing all hit number one on pop charts around the world.
The band was awarded the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1990.
But then rumours started to occur – the lack of English spoken by Rob and Fab in a MTV interview, the use of recorded tracks at concerts and that the duo always were lipsynching their songs. The duo were superstars and eating up their time in the spotlight, but this was soon ended, when band member Charles Shaw admitted to the media he was one of the singers on the album, not the duo.
Farian had offered Shaw $150,000 to retract his statement, but in the end, he admitted Rob and Fab were not the singers. The Grammy was returned, and Arista dropped the band from its roster, and immediately ceased distribution of the album, permanently putting the album out of print.
Twenty seven different lawsuits were issued in US courts against Farian and the band, including one financial settlement that awarded those who attended concerts and purchased recordings – a record 10 million consumers could claim part of this court decision.
I remember these songs endlessly playing everywhere – it was hard to escape the music of Milli Vanilli. Although I was not a fan, I did love the descent since it was so sensational a story that these two had perpetrated a great fraud on the music industry.
This band is notorious for its reputation – and has never been forgotten for its rise and fall.