Rob Pilatus PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 October 2008 10:09

Pilatus, right

Robert Pilatus

Born: June 8, 1965, Munich, Germany

Died:  April 2, 1998, Frankfurt, Germany

Age:   32

Cause of death: Accidental death by suspected alcohol and prescription pill overdose in a Frankfurt hotel room.


Notable because: Accepted a Grammy award for his singing knowing he never sang on the recording in question.

Pilatus was born in Munich, Germany, the son of an African American soldier and a German mother who was a stripper. Pilatus was later adopted by a German family and raised in Munich. He worked as a model and break dancer before joining Fabrice Morvan in 1988 to form the pop group Milli Vanilli.

Pilatus and Morvan were noticed by music producer Frank Farian, who signed them up to be part of a musical act. Shortly after a trip to Turkey, where the duo was reputed to get the band name from a local advertising slogan, Milli Vanilli was born, with Pilatus and Morvan serving as the public faces for the vocal talents of Charles Shaw and Brad Howell, who Farian thought were talented musicians but lacked a marketable image.

The first Milli Vanilli platinum album was Girl You Know It's True which became a worldwide hit. The album produced five hit singles including three number 1 hits, "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You", "Baby Don't Forget My Number" and "Blame It On The Rain". Milli Vanilli won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist on February 21, 1990 for "Girl You Know It's True".

Despite the enormous success, the duo were a frequent target of rumours and allegations of on-stage lip-synching and not having sung on the album. Charles Shaw, one of the actual vocalists of Milli Vanilli, told a reporter about the truth of the group's secret, but later retracted his statement after Farian paid him $150,000.

When Pilatus and Morvan pressured Farian to let them sing on the next album, Farian revealed the truth to reporters on November 15, 1990 that Pilatus and Morvan did not actually sing on the records and their voices were dubbed. Milli Vanilli's Grammy award was withdrawn four days later and Arista Records dropped the act from its roster and deleted their album and songs from their catalog, making Girl You Know It's True the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 get a refund.

Farian would later attempt a failed comeback for the group without Pilatus and Morvan. Months after the scandal, Pilatus and Morvan appeared in a commercial for CareFree Sugarless Gum. The duo begin to lip sync to an opera record. An announcer asks while they are lip synching, "How long does the taste of CareFree Sugarless Gum last?". The record then begins to skip and then the announcer answers, "Until these guys sing themselves."

In 1993, the duo signed with a new label, Taj, and released an eponymous album featuring their real voices. The album sold only 2,000 copies and the label went bankrupt shortly thereafter.

In the years following the demise of Milli Vanilli, Pilatus struggled with substance abuse and suicide attempts. After the duo's unsuccessful comeback attempt, they stopped speaking. In 1996, Pilatus served three months jail for assault, vandalism, and attempted robbery and spent six months on drug rehabilitation, before returning to Germany.

On April 2, 1998, Pilatus was found dead of a suspected alcohol and prescription pill overdose in a Frankfurt hotel room. Pilatus' death was ruled accidental.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 16:00

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