How Did Milli Vanilli Get Caught Lip-Syncing?

Milli Vanilli is a pop duo who ruled the charts in the late ’80s with other music superstars like Madonna, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson. The pair’s debut album Girl You Know It’s True spawned the No. 1 songs “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” and “Blame It On The Rain.” The success of that album catapulted Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, who made up the duo, into fame and they became household names. But then came the scandal that changed their lives forever.

More than three decades later, many still have questions about Milli Vanilli’s fall from grace and the voices who really sang those hits.

Portrait of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan of the duo Milli Vanilli
Portrait of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan of the duo Milli Vanilli | Bernd Muller/Redferns

When Milli Vanilli got caught lip-syncing

Milli Vanilli won a Grammy for the multi-platinum album Girl You Know It’s True. But as their success grew so did suspicion about Pilatus and Fab Morvan as vocalists.

During interviews, the Paris-born Morvan and the German-born Pilatus’ English language skills weren’t great but yet in their songs their accents were undetectable. Soon what some already believed was confirmed during a live performance.

On July 21, 1989, Milli Vanilli performed in front of a crowd of 80,000 at the theme park in Connecticut, which was broadcast on MTV, and a recording of the track Girl You Know It’s True skipped. The words “Girl you know it’s, girl you know it’s, girl you know it’s…” started repeating continuously. When it didn’t stop, the pair rushed off stage

“I knew right then and there, it was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli,” Pilatus told the Los Angeles Times in November 1990. “When my voice got stuck in the computer and it just kept repeating and repeating, I panicked. I just ran off the stage.″

The group’s 1990 Grammy for Best New Artist was later revoked. 

Who really sang the songs?

Following the lip-syncing scandal, Morvan and Pilatus stated they were actual singers but were never allowed to do the vocals per their producer Frank Farian. The question on everyone’s mind then was: Who really sang those hit songs?

In 2014, Oprah: Where Are They Now? caught up with female backup singers Jodie Rocco and Linda Rocco as well as the male leads Brad Howell, Charles Shaw, and John Davis to discuss the scandal involving their actual voices. Howell explained that he had no problem providing the vocals behind the scenes. Shaw, however, was conflicted about it and when he expressed that Farain hired Davis to replace him.

As for Morvan and Pilatus, they tried to make a comeback a few years after their lip-syncing debacle by releasing an album in 1993 titled: Rob & Fab. But because of a lack of publicity and poor distribution, it only sold around 2,000 copies.

On April 2, 1998, Pilatus was found dead in a hotel room in Germany.

“When I heard the news of Rob’s death, everything went blank at that moment. Silence,” Morvan said. “It was like losing a part of myself. In order to honor him, and for myself, I said a vow that I would do my thing. And I would make sure the name Milli Vanilli itself means when you fall, you stand back up, and you move on.”