European pop and rap duo Milli Vanilli began their recording career on a West German label in 1987, and met with such success that their music was introduced to the United States in 1989. Their U.S. debut album, Girl, You Know It’s True, has sold over three million copies and spawned four hit singles: the title track, “Baby, Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl, I’m Gonna Miss You,” and the smash ballad, “Blame It on the Rain.” Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, who make up Milli Vanilli, have become international stars and are so popular that, according to Jeff Giles in Rolling Stone, they “have been making Hard Day’s Night-style escapes from fans all over Europe.”
The two members of Milli Vanilli each have interesting histories. Pilatus was born in New York, New York during the mid-1960s, the biological son of a black U.S. serviceman and a German striptease dancer. Soon after birth he was adopted by a German couple and raised in Munich. Morvan was born at about the same time on the island of Guadeloupe, but moved to Paris, France with his parents at an early age. Pilatus got
Duo is comprised of Rob Pilatus, born c. 1966 in New York City, and Fab Morvan, born c. 1966 in Guadeloupe.
Addresses: Residence —Both reside in London, England. Record company—Arista Records, Inc., 6 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
interested in music through the break-dancing craze that swept Europe and the United States during the early 1980s; he performed in a group of dancers who competed in international competitions. He also worked as a model and as a disc jockey in dance clubs. But break dancing went the way of many fads, and Pilatus told Giles that he tried to convince the members of his group to adapt to the situation: “Break dancing went down and down and down. I said, ‘Hey, listen, guys, why don’t we try to sing and make music?’” They were not receptive to his idea, so he struck out on his own.
Morvan was not originally interested in a career in music. During his youth he trained as a gymnast, seeking to compete in the European championships, but this ambition ended when a trampoline accident left him paralyzed for a time. Though he regained the use of his limbs, he was not able to continue the strenuous activity of gymnastics, and began to explore the possibilities of dance. As Giles reported, Morvan was attending a dance seminar in Los Angeles, California, when he met Pilatus. Pilatus saw Morvan, he explained to Giles, and noticed his extravagantly long hair: “I said, ‘I have to hook up with this guy, he’s dangerous for me.’”
The duo decided to settle in Munich to work on their careers. Meanwhile, Pilatus set about finding a gimmick for Milli Vanilli, a name reportedly chosen because both men liked the music of pop group Scritti Politti. “I looked at all the superstars,” he confessed to Giles. “What is their different thing? Their hair. Beatles, Elvis, James Dean, James Brown, Marilyn Monroe. I wanted to be a star. I said, ‘I have to fix my hair.’” So the two men adapted a style of several long, thin braids. This coiffure has gotten attention, but a gimmick without talent underneath does not create the level of success that Milli Vanilli has achieved.
Though they received their first contract from a German company, they went to London, England, to make the actual recording. There, Milli Vanilli tried to tell the English that they were an American group, feeling that German musical groups did not have a very exciting reputation, but their English was not good enough to pull off the ruse. Indeed, in order to sing English lyrics on their album, they had to be taught the songs syllable by syllable by an American accent coach. The effort was worthwhile. “Girl, You Know It’s True” hit number one on the German charts, and attracted the notice of Arista Records, who decided to export Milli Vanilli’s music to the United States. Arista changed the German album somewhat for American consumption, replacing four songs with four others, including a remake of the Isley Brothers’ hit “It’s Your Thing” and “Blame It on the Rain.”
Released in the United States in 1989, Girl, You Know It’s True was very well-received by music fans. It also received some praise from the critics; a People reviewer lauded the title track for its “catchy, limber little groove.” He did not care for some of the cuts, particularly what he termed the “rap ballads,” but concluded that Milli Vanilli was “most listenable” on “It’s Your Thing.” Milli Vanilli’s plans include another album, and Pilatus and Morvan are considering roles in a film about the life of black performer Josephine Baker.
Girl, You Know It’s True (includes “Girl, You Know It’s True,” “Baby, Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl, I’m Gonna Miss You,” “Blame It on the Rain,” and “It’s Your Thing”), Arista, 1989.
Quick Moves: The Remix Album, Arista, 1990.
People, May 8, 1989.
Rolling Stone, November 30, 1989.
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