German-French R&B duo Milli Vanilli were riding high on the cusp of the 1990s. Their 1989 North American debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, and hit single of the same name, had launched them to international acclaim. However, that success was short-lived and would all come crashing down on this day in 1990.
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On Nov. 15, 1990, it came to light that the duo, made up of Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, had not sung a note of their music. As their career gained traction, rumors began to swirl when lip-syncing became obvious during their live performances. No one would have guessed they hadn’t even sung on their album.
A confession came from Pilatus after the pair’s producer, Frank Farian, went public with the deception.
“I feel like a mosquito being squeezed,” Pilatus told the Los Angeles Times. “The last two years of our lives have been a total nightmare. We’ve had to lie to everybody. We are true singers but that maniac Frank Farian would never allow us to express ourselves.”
Farian had reportedly fired the performers when they demanded they actually sing on their follow-up album. In a press conference, Farian was quoted as saying, “I said, ‘No. I don’t go for that.’ Sure, they have a voice, but that’s not really what I want to use on my records.”
The producer explained “Girl You Know It’s True” had already been recorded when the duo came into the picture.
“It suddenly clicked in my mind, and it was kind of evident: I had the music, there were the people who wanted to perform outside,” said Farian. “And I said, ‘Hey, let’s put that together and make a great record out of it.'”
While the plan did result in a successful record – one that sold 7 million copies and won the duo a Grammy for Best New Artist – Milli Vanilli were stripped of the award along with their credibility as artists.
“We were afraid for two years that this day would come,” Pilatus said. “We’ve cried about it sometimes, that the secret might come out. But deep inside, we wanted it to happen. I’m happy now that I can talk to our fans about it. We won’t let them down. I swear we will soon have an album out with our own voices on it which will prove our talent.”
A forthcoming biopic, named after the duo’s debut, will depict their rise to international superstardom and their eventual fall from grace.
“Girl You Know It’s True is captivating on so many levels,” the film’s director, Simon Verhoeven, said in a statement. “It not only tells the spectacular rise of two underdogs making it to the zenith of showbiz within one summer, it also gives a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of that illusory world of fame and its sometimes tragic and unscrupulous machinations. Personally, I think Rob and Fab did not deserve to become the sole scapegoats of this scandal.”
No release date has been announced for Girl You Know It’s True. The music video for the song is below.
Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images