That Was John Davis' Voice on Milli Vanilli's Hits

Producer had singer record the tracks alone, late at night
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 28, 2021 5:15 PM CDT
That Was John Davis' Voice on Milli Vanilli's Hits
Fabrice Morvan, left, and Rob Pilatus of Milli Vanilli perform during the taping of the Arsenio Hall Show in Los Angeles in 1992.   (AP Photo/Craig Fujii, File)

John Davis, one of the real singers behind the lip-synching pop duo Milli Vanilli, has died of the coronavirus, his family said. He was 66. Davis died on Monday in Nuremberg, Germany, his daughter Jasmin Davis said. "We are so incredibly sad and heartbroken," Davis told the AP. Davis was credited with backup vocals but was really a lead singer on albums by Milli Vanilli, whose expeditious ascension into the music world was followed by an equally rapid fall. Following the debut single "Girl You Know It's True" and No. 1 hits including "Blame It On the Rain" and "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus won the 1989 Best New Artist Grammy Award. When it was revealed that neither actually sang on Milli Vanilli records, the group was stripped of the Grammy and disbanded, reforming as Rob and Fab in 1991. The two then achieved little commercial success. They faced legal challenges, including a successful lawsuit from the 1960s-era band Blood, Sweat and Tears, which accused Morvan and Pilatus of stealing the melody of "Spinning Wheel" for "Girl You Know It's True."

Born in South Carolina, Davis had lived much of his life in Germany after being stationed there with the Army, he told the Hustle podcast. He was working as a musician in the 1980s when German producer Frank Farian selected him to sing on a project but didn't tell him others would lip-synch his music, Davis said. Farian had him come to the studio late at night, keeping him separate from other artists, he said. Only later did he discover that his voice was being attributed to Morvan, Davis told the podcast. "One evening I was sitting at home watching my TV, and I saw Fab singing 'Girl I'm Gonna Miss You,'" he said. Davis told the podcast he made "a lot of money" from the recordings and had a comfortable life, despite not achieving stardom. The album on which Davis sang sold more than 6 million copies in the US alone. All five singles from it were Top 5 hits. Pilatus died in 1998. Morvan and Davis remained on good terms, performing together on German television in 2015. "Your golden voice will continue to be heard, you best believe that those classic records will live just like you eternally," Morvan tweeted Friday of Davis.

(More obituary stories.)

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