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Documentary Review: Milli Vanilli Singer Reflects On the Lip-Sync Scandal That Shattered His Partner

by Diamond Brown

The new "Milli Vanilli" documentary, premiered on Paramount+. The feature-length documentary, which made its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival unveils a poignant moment when Fab Morvan recounts one of the last encounters with his partner, Rob Pilatus, before Pilatus's tragic death from an accidental overdose in 1998. Their story is a compelling narrative of success, deception, and personal struggles.

Image Credit: Ron Galella / Contributor / Getty Images


In this documentary, Morvan shares a heartbreaking memory of seeing Pilatus outside the Viper Room in Hollywood, California. Pilatus, once a green-eyed heartthrob, was now a far cry from his glory days as an MTV sensation. Morvan describes the moment when he realized that his friend was in dire straits, and he took Pilatus to what appeared to be a crack house.


The duo known as Milli Vanilli had experienced a meteoric rise in 1989, with chart-topping hits like "Girl You Know It’s True," "Baby Don’t Forget My Number," "Blame It on the Rain," and "Girl I’m Gonna Miss You." However, their fame came crashing down in 1990 when their producer, Frank Farian, disclosed that they had not sung a note on their smash debut album, "Girl You Know It’s True." The revelation led to media scrutiny and backlash.


Pilatus's tragic death at the age of 32 in Frankfurt, Germany, resulted from a lethal mix of alcohol and prescription pills. Morvan attributes his partner's death to the harsh treatment they endured from both the media and the public. He believes that Pilatus died of a broken heart, deeply affected by the relentless scrutiny and criticism they faced.


The documentary delves into their journey, beginning with Morvan moving from Paris to Munich, Germany, where he met the breakdancing Pilatus at a party. Their rise to stardom was marked by modeling gigs, dancing behind pop stars, and the distinctive long braids that became their signature look. It was Boney M producer Frank Farian who noticed them and engineered their rise to fame as Milli Vanilli.


They signed a contract without fully understanding its implications. Morvan recalls that they signed the contract without reading it, simply hoping it would provide them with the means to survive. However, the reality they faced was quite different.


When they arrived at Farian's studio in Frankfurt several months later, they discovered that their voices would not be featured on their debut single, "Girl You Know It’s True." Instead, it was the American duo of singer Brad Howell and rapper Charles Shaw who provided the vocals.


Despite the understanding that it was for a single song, they continued to lip-sync across Europe and later in the United States. Their popularity soared with the success of "Girl You Know It’s True," and Farian recorded an entire Milli Vanilli album, with John Davis replacing Shaw.


Rumors about their lip-syncing began to circulate. Even during their 1990 Grammy Awards performance, they continued to lip-sync. Morvan and Pilatus wanted to sing on their second album, which Farian had already recorded with Howell and Davis. When Farian refused their demands, he decided to reveal their secret himself.


Although Morvan and Pilatus attempted a comeback with a 1993 album under the name Rob & Fab, it was met with limited success, selling only 2,000 copies. This disappointment took a toll on Pilatus, leading him down a path of drug use.

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On the other hand, Morvan found love in Amsterdam with his partner, Tessa Vandersteen, and they now have four children. He has continued to make music and perform Milli Vanilli songs, cherishing the music that was a significant part of their lives.


"Milli Vanilli" documentary tells the story of a pop sensation's meteoric rise, dramatic fall, and the lasting impact on its members. It is a tale of deception, the price of fame, and the resilience of Fab Morvan as he continues to celebrate the music that defined an era.


Highly recommended 10/10

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