Be Thankful For What You Got or How Not To Fly Too Close To The Sun – Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True
Hello and welcome Public Recordeers. Another Thanksgiving is upon us. A great time to step back and take stock of what we actually have and what it is all actually worth. It is also a great time to remember that it isn’t the actual having that brings the joy but it is the how you have what you have that brings the joy. No better album in our stash encapsulates that philosophy better than the one we’ve selected for our album of the week. For Thanksgiving 2019, The Public Records has decided to choose Milli Vanilli‘s – Girl You Know It’s True (Arista, 1988) as the tale we wish to tell to convey this message.
To be an artist, one must has to have a bit of an ego. To be a performer, that ego must be even bigger. But to wish for fame and fortune…that is another beast. All celebrities have skeletons in their closets and dirty stories hidden away, but only the unfortunate few ever get these exposed to the general public. Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan were members of the latter.
Fabrice Morvan hailed from Paris, France while Rob Pilatus was a Munich, Germany boy. However, it was at a dance seminar in Los Angeles, California in 1988 they met. Being both black Europeans in America gave them much to bond over quickly. Alien culture abroad and yet not exactly fitting in at home, either, the two became fast friends.
They decided to meet in Munich to pursue musical careers. Finding no success as back up singers, they decided to form a duo. The called themselves Milli Vanilli and recorded an album on a small German label with limited distribution. Like most musicians they were broke and struggling and like most musicians they wanted success, but not just success – Morvan and Pilatus wanted fame. Being very young, they were very hung up on the fame part.
Enter Frank Farian, music producer. He heard about the Milli Vanilli and invited them to his studio to hear them. After listening to their version of Girl You Know It’s True, he was not very impressed with their vocals, but he was with their image; so he sent them on the road immediately with studio musician recorded versions of the songs that they would dance to and lip synch. The crowds ate them up. Then Farian wrote another batch of songs and Milli Vanilli‘s first album All Or Nothing was released to rave reviews.
Enamored with their new found fame and the money that came with it, Fabrice and Rob kept kicking their concerns down the road. Then they crossed the pond and in America All Or Nothing was renamed Girl You Know It’s True and took over everything in 1989. The album had five singles that made it to the Billboard Hot 100 and three of those five made it to #1, spent six weeks on the Billboard Top 200 certifying as a 6 time platinum album, spent another 72 weeks on the charts, certified diamond in Canada, and earned the pair a Grammy for Best New Artist.
As their desire for fame came true, the trials and tribulations of celebrity tagged along. During an interview for MTV, it was noticed that their abilities in the language they were singing in (English) was much better than their proficiency in just speaking it. During a live performance in the summer of 1989, the tape machine jammed and caused a panic on stage even though the audience wasn’t bothered. However, it was the arrogance of unearned fame that brought them down. The American release of their album didn’t credit the studio singers who actually provided the vocals for the album. Needless to say they weren’t to happy, so Charles Shaw who was one vocalists, let the world know. The claim was later retracted after a $150,000.00 payout made by Frank Farian, but it was too late.
Milli Vanilli‘s franchise came crashing down. They were forced to return their Grammy, hit with a class action lawsuit of up to 10 million folks demanding refunds for concert tickets and album purchases, and sued by David Clayton-Thomas for using the melody of his 1968 tune Spinning Wheel for the group Blood, Sweat & Tears.
The group, although they tried, was never able to recover and during a late 90s recording to restore what little cred they had retained, Rob Pilatus was found dead of an alcohol and prescription drug overdose.
On that happy note – remember that nothing good ever comes easy and as our Amish neighbors say “Unne druwwel hut mer nix.” Enjoy your Thanksgiving and reflect on what you have, not on what you could have.
Be sure to enjoy Milli Vanilli with a Milli Vanilli cocktail.