|Milli Vanilli was a successful musical group in the late 1980’s whose singers did not sing. Instead, they lip synced to pre-recorded vocals, sung by others. It all went well at first, until the duo insisted on singing for real on the second Milli Vanilli album. Image Source: Gossip Brunch|
The musical group as an invention
There was a talented German musician…
The Origin of Boney M
German singer-songwriter Frank Farian (real name Franz Reuther) recorded the dance track “Baby Do You Wanna Bump” in December 1974. Farian sang the repeated line “Do you do you wanna bump?” in a deep voice (entirely studio created) as well as performing the high falsetto chorus. When the record was released as a single, it was credited to “Boney M.”, a pseudonym Farian had created for himself after watching the Australian detective show Boney. ….
After a slow start, the song became a hit in the Netherlands and Belgium. It was then that Farian decided to hire performers to ‘front’ the group for TV performances.
And Along Came Milli Vanilli
Farian was selling millions of records and became one of the world’s most valued producers, making records for Meat Loaf and Stevie Wonder. But Farian still hungered for his U.S. breakthrough.
He found some new singers, Brad Howell and John Davis, former American soldiers with a good sense of the new thing, rap. He worked up new mixes for some of the numbers he’d written in the Boney M days. But Howell was 45 (by his own account; Farian insists he is 38) and wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of going on tour.
Farian wanted a catchy look to go with the bouncy sounds. With the Milli Vanilli songs already recorded, Rob and Fab walked into the studios one day, seeking work. They looked great. They sang terribly. They were perfect.
The name of the band, Milli Vanilli, was based on a “advertising slogan” that Rob and Fab found while on a trip to Turkey. (Wikipedia) It might have also been based on the name of a defunct discotheque in Germany. (Washington Post)
Rumours spread that the duo of Rob and Fab did not sing, only lip-synced. Shaw, the real rapper on the original “Girl You Know It’s True”, told a reporter that the duo lip-synced, but he retracted his statement after Farian paid him $150,000. It was big money in those days, and a smart way for the “invisible backup singer” to get paid. (Charles Shaw was paid only $6,000 for his original rap in “Girl You Know It’s True”.)
Eventually, however, the duo of Rob and Fab wanted to sing on the second Milli Vanilli album. Farian himself revealed the whole scam to the media.
Milli Vanilli’s Grammy Award was withdrawn. Arista Records also removed the album from its catalogue and stopped selling Milli Vanilli’s records.
What was the betrayal? Did anyone in America believe that the Village People or the Monkees really sang themselves? The Archies? Please. Everyone’s been doing it for 25 years. Madonna, Janet Jackson — these perfect dance shows are expected now. So the best way to go onstage is with tapes.
That was the end of the original Milli Vanilli. There was a follow up act, featuring the real singers of Milli Vanilli, but that’s another story.
Here’s the original Milli Vanilli hit, “Girl You Know It’s True”, that made it all happen.
They want you to know that you can blame it on the rain.
And you know what, I’m going to miss their music.
Snap! was a group formed by two German musical producers, Michael Münzing and Luca Anzilotti. Like Milli Vanilli, it was another Eurodance group. Unlike Milli Vanilli, the original singers of the group, Turbo B and Penny Ford, performed the songs on their own. There was no lip syncing. The song above, “The Power”, was a huge hit.
Another Eurodance group form the 1990s was 2 Unlimited, which was founded by “Belgian producers Jean-Paul DeCoster and Phil Wilde and fronted by Dutch rapper Ray Slijngaard and Dutch vocalist Anita Doth”. (Wikipedia) Their song below, “No Limit”, was also another hit.
Some Interesting Questions
Question: Who owned the band’s brand?
Question: Can old band members perform using the band’s brand?
There are the old Boney M singers who left Farian and are now in a messy legal battle over the name of the band. Three original Boney M members who claim the right to keep performing under the name say Farian is out to destroy their livelihood. They point to a letter warning club owners, deejays and music publications not to hire the “the band illegally using the name Boney M.”
Question: Who owns the publishing rights to the Milli Vanilli’s songs?
Question: Were audiences cheated?
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