Milli Vanilli Explains Its Lip-Synching
Hollywood -- November 20, 1990 -- Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, who have given up their Grammy Award and their group's name, Milli Vanilli, said today that they were poor and hungry when seduced by an unscrupulous producer who later coerced them to keep their lip-synching secret.
"We were living together in the projects, with two other musicians in Munich," the 25-year-old West German-born Mr. Pilatus said at a crowded news conference here today. "We had nothing to eat, and we were unhappy. We wanted to be stars. And suddenly this guy gave us a chance, and we took it."
On Monday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences revoked Milli Vanilli's 1989 Grammy Award for best new artist, after the duo and their German producer, Frank Farian, admitted that the dreadlocked performers did not sing a word on their hit debut album, "Girl You Know It's True."
Fate of an Award
Mr. Pilatus and Mr. Morvan, who is also 25, have said they want to give the golden trophies, which are shaped like a vintage phonograph, to the real singers on the album (Brad Howell, Johnny Davis and Charles Shaw), but they said they would return them to the academy today. The academy has not yet decided whether to give the award, which Milli Vanilli received in February, to a runner-up or to anyone at all. The other nominees were the rapper Tone-Loc, the singer and songwriter Neneh Cherry and the groups Soul II Soul and the Indigo Girls.
Milli Vanilli also won three American Music Awards in January.
The performers and their new German manager, Carsten Heyn, said top-level executives at Arista Records, including Clive Davis, the president, and its parent company, the German conglomerate Bertelsmann Music Group, were aware of the false album credits before the Grammy was awarded. Mr. Heyn refused to name any others besides Mr. Davis. Mr. Pilatus said today that Mr. Davis had promised to pressure Mr. Farian to allow the duo to sing on its second album.
In a written statement, Arista Records said today that no one at the company knew that Mr. Pilatus and Mr. Morvan did not sing on the Milli Vanilli album and warned that "any assertions to the contrary are false and libelous."
The company went on to wish the partners success with their singing career but added that "we deplore their attempts to distort the record and to falsely accuse Arista and its executives."
'It Was an Opportunity'
Mr. Pilatus said Mr. Farian had promised him that he and his partner could sing on their next album, but then reneged and threatened that their careers would be ruined if they let their "little secret" out.
"We were young, naive and we believed him," said Mr. Pilatus, who was 21 when he first met Mr. Farian, who had produced the international hit of Boney M.'s version of "Rivers of Babylon.
"It was an opportunity for us."
Mr. Morvan and Mr. Pilatus insisted that they could sing and said they would continue their act as "Rob and Fab, the German and the French." (Mr. Morvan was born in Guadeloupe, a French protectorate.)
Mr. Heyn showed a video made on Sunday in which the two sing their hit song, "Girl You Know It's True," in a recording studio. At the urging of the crowd, Mr. Pilatus sang a few bars of the song, followed by a seemingly reluctant Mr. Morvan, who rapped a portion of background.
They added that they were sorry they had misled their fans and that they were relieved the charade has been disclosed.
"We're happy that it's over," Mr. Pilatus said. "But we don't understand that it's us, the two little guys from Germany, the victims, who have to play suddenly the role of the crooks."
He added that they have been approached by movie and record producers but have not yet accepted any offers.
"We're looking over our choices carefully," Mr. Pilatus said.
GRAPHIC: Photo: Fab Morvan, left, and Rob Pilatus of Milli Vanilli, who admitted to not having sung on their record, as they returned their Grammy. (Bart Bartholemew for The New York Times)
Copyright 1990 The New York Times Company