Milli Vanilli and the Case of the Vanishing Grammy

Milli Vanilli,

Rob Pilatus, left, and Fabrice Morvan of Milli Vanilli (Promotional photo)

On this date in 1990, Milli Vanilli was stripped of its Grammy Award after it was revealed that the duo did not sing on the album it won the award for.

Here are some things you may not have known about the group and the charade.

Milli Vanilli was created by West German music producer Frank Farian in 1988. Following the recording of the act’s first single, “Girl You Know It’s True,” Farian hired Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus as the faces of the act.

As a group made for MTV, ironically it was the cable channel that eventually contributed to its downfall. An early interview with MTV showed the duo’s poor grasp of the English language compared to their album. In 1989, while performing at an MTV event, the recording of “Girl You Know It’s True” jammed and kept repeating the words “Girl, You Know It’s …” over and over. Later that year, Charles Shaw, who performed the rap parts of the duo’s hits, admitted his part in the fraud. Morvan, Pilatus and Farian continued to insist that the men in the videos performed the recorded versions of the songs.

Despite this, the group’s American debut album, also called “Girl You Know It’s True,” produced four hit singles and earned the duo a Grammy Award as best new artist in February 1990. On November 12, 1990, Farian admitted that that duo was a fraud. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences withdrew their Grammy Award four days later. It was not re-awarded. The other nominees for Best New Artist that year were Neneh Cherry, Indigo Girls, Soul II Soul and Tone Loc.

Milli Vanilli’s second album had been recorded before the controversy struck. Just before its release, the album artwork was replaced to show the actual singers. The name of the album was changed from “Keep on Running” to “The Moment of Truth” by The Real Milli Vanilli. In the United States, the group was renamed Try ’N’ B.

Pilatus and Morvan recorded an album under the name Rob & Fab. It was released only in the U.S. It sold around 2,000 copies.

The duo reunited with Farian in 1998 to produce a new legitimate album as Milli Vanilli. Pilatus, however ran into problems with drugs and other legal issues, and was sentenced to three months in jail. Just before a promotional tour for the new album, Pilatus was found dead of a drug overdose in a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. He was 32. Morvan continues to work in the music business and as a public speaker.

Our question, Which of the following acts did not win the Grammy for best new artist: Bob Newhart, The Beatles, Elton John, Starland Vocal Band or Tom Jones?

Today is International Men’s Day, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and World Toilet Day. In the United States it’s the Great American Smokeout, a day designed to encourage people to quit smoking. It’s the birthday of Charles I of England, U.S. president James Buchanan, and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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