April 2, 1998 – Robert ‘Rob’ Pilatus (Milli Vanilli) was born June 8th 1965 in Munich, Germany. The son of an African American soldier and a German mother, he was later adopted by a German family and raised in Munich. He worked as a model and break dancer before joining Milli Vanilli, a pop/dance music project formed by Frank Farian in Germany in 1988, fronted by Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus.
Their debut platinum album “Girl You Know It’s True” became a worldwide platinum hit and produced five hit singles including 3 No.1 hits, “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” and “Blame It On The Rain”. The album won them the 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. In reality however Pilatus and Morvan served as the public faces for singers Charles Shaw and Brad Howell, whom Farian thought were vocally talented but lacked a marketable image.
Despite the enormous success, the duo were a frequent target of rumours and allegations of onstage lip-synching and not having sung on the album. Charles Shaw, one of the actual vocalists, told a reporter the truth, but retracted his statement after Farian paid him $150,000.
When Pilatus and Morvan pressured Farian to let them sing on the next album, Farian admitted to reporters on 15 November 1990 that they had not performed on the recordings. Milli Vanilli’s Grammy Award was withdrawn four days later, and Arista Records dropped them from its roster and deleted their album and songs from their catalog, making Girl You Know It’s True the largest-selling album to ever be taken out of print. A court ruling in the United States allowed anyone who had bought the album to receive a refund.
Farian later attempted an unsuccessful comeback for the group without Pilatus and Morvan. Months after the scandal, Pilatus and Morvan appeared in a commercial for Carefree sugarless chewing gum. In it the duo lip-synched to an opera recording. An announcer asked, “How long does the taste of Carefree Sugarless Gum last?” The record began to skip and the announcer added, “Until these guys sing for themselves.”
In 1991, Pilatus called the Los Angeles Times threatening suicide; he had to be retrieved from a hotel balcony by police.
In 1992, Pilatus and Morvan signed with a new label, Taj, and released Rob & Fab, an album featuring their own voices, but the album only sold around 2,000 copies. The label went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
After this failed comeback attempt, Rob turned to a life of crime and in 1996, he served three months in jail for assault, vandalism and attempted robbery. He also spent six months on drug rehabilitation, before returning to Germany.
He died from a drug overdose on April 2, 1998 at the age of 32 in a Frankfurt hotel room — possibly the victim, former producer Frank Farian told the German media, of a combination of alcohol and prescription pills.
On February 14, 2007, it was announced that Universal Pictures was developing a film based on the story of Milli Vanilli’s rise and fall in the music industry.
Milli Vanilli partner Fabrice Morvan released a statement, saying in part, ”Milli Vanilli was not a disgrace. The only disgrace is how Rob died, all alone….Where were the ones that pushed us to the top, who made the millions?”