Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Milli Vanilli - 20 Years Later

It’s been 20 years since Milli Vanilli won a Grammy for best new artist behind their multiplatinum smash Girl You Know It’s True. Later that same year, the truth came out that Fab and Rob never sang on the album and had been scamming fans by lip synching their stage performances. Where does the time go?

As a teenager in 1989, I couldn’t get away from Milli Vanilli, and though I am a rocker at heart, Milli Vanilli was one of my first guilty pleasures (much like Jessica Simpson and Perry Como are these days). I just couldn’t help myself; I liked Milli Vanilli a lot! I went out and bought all four of their mega-hit singles as they were released on cassette single (anyone remember those?), and I would listen to their songs ad nauseam.

While not my style of Kiss, Motley Crue, Poison, or Warrant that was endlessly consuming back then, Milli Vanilli was bubble gum pop that I just couldn’t help myself from listening to. It was cheesy, overplayed, radio glitz, but I loved it all the same. I knew the words to all the songs (and sadly – still do). Girl You Know It’s True went multi platinum by 1990 and everybody was on the Milli Vanilli bandwagon. MTV constantly played their videos, the radio always had one of their songs on, and in the summer of 1989, when they released their monster power ballad I’m Gonna Miss You, this band just exploded into the upper stratosphere of artistic greatness.

I’m Gonna Miss You holds very special meaning to me, which is why anytime I see anything Milli Vanilli related, I stop and pay attention. In the summer of 1989, I was dating a beautiful girl named April that I was crazy about. We were totally different types, she was super smart and pretty, I was a metal head with a mullet (yes, I had one of those) that smoked too much. Yet, for some reason, she dated me. It wasn’t hard and heavy, but I enjoyed every second that we were together and when we were apart, I craved being with her. I hadn’t felt that way about many girls up to that point in my life, and with April it was a wonderful feeling. She was the most amazing girl – funny, bright, and very positive. I thought that we had a wonderful relationship going. Even though we never called it an “official” relationship (which for some reason was very important back then – to use the word girlfriend or boyfriend was BIG), I never felt that way with anyone else.

At the end of the summer, I decided that it was time to make our relationship “official.” I was going to ask April to go steady with me. I knew that there wouldn’t be any reason for her to say no. And with school about a week away from starting, I wanted to be able to begin my junior year with status. Having a girlfriend was huge for that.

However, when I talked to April about it, she said that she wasn’t ready to be in a committed relationship and ended ours. We went from dating and getting serious, to “I think we should just be friends.” Friends? What the hell was that? Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled and we didn’t talk much after that conversation (if at all). My summer ended on a sour note and I started my junior year very depressed. Around this time, Milli Vanilli’s Girl I’m Gonna Miss You was a number one hit everywhere, and it was so appropriate, that I played the song over and over and over and over again. I think for the entire month of September that song got played at least a dozen times a day. I was sad. I missed April and couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to be in a committed relationship. Did she not want to be in a relationship at all, or did she not want to be in a relationship with me? Millli Vanilli was my closest companion during that dark month of September.

April went on to date a friend of mine later that fall and when they started going “steady,” I was pissed. She told me that she wasn’t ready for a committed relationship and then started dating my friend. I just couldn’t comprehend that. My friend and I had more than one scuffle over the whole situation. Oh the drama of teenage love!

Over a year later, when it was revealed that Milli Vanilli was a fraud and that Rob and Fab had nothing to do with the album other than look good on the cover and at the shows, I had to laugh. I did a senior paper on the news, and it made me smile. The one song that had comforted me during a difficult relationship had turned out to be a fraud. How very fitting.

We all know what happened with Rob and Fab after that. Their time in the limelight was over and they went into hiding for a while. Rob died of an overdose (some claim suicide) in 1998 and Fab continued to try and be recognized as a real musician. Some of his songs can be heard on his website. There is a movie in the works.

But what about the singers that really sang the Milli Vanilli songs? Whatever became of them? Charles Shaw, John Davis, Brad Howell, and twin sisters Jodie and Linda Rocco, were the original voices of Milli Vanilli. In 1990, Shaw leaked to the press that Rob and Fab were fakes. By November of that year, mastermind of the Milli Vanilli concept, Frank Farian admitted the truth and the rest is history.

Charles Shaw went on to record music under his own name. In 2006 he released an album called Charles Shaw’s Iris that featured a lot of references to Milli Vanilli. Visit his myspace page here:

John Davis is still writing, recording music, and touring. Currently, he is working on recording a new album. Visit his website at

Jodie and Linda Rocco currently host a radio talk show on Vegas Talk Radio. They are reportedly working on a biography about the Real Milli Vanilli. You can visit their website at

Brad Howell has all but vanished from the face of the Earth. He has gone into obscurity since 1990.

Milli Vanilli’s debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, is no longer in print. Arista, the record label that released the album, has not stated whether they will issue a 20th anniversary edition, but the chances are highly unlikely. Personally, I think the 20th anniversary should be released and it should come with a bonus karaoke disc.

Comments are open. Feel free to post some.


Brian Basher said...

I have to admit they were a guilty pleasure for me as well back in the day, but forgot about them as soon as the scandal broke out. I remember being in Korea a few years later probably back in '93 or '94 and seeing a cassette titled "the Real Milli Vanilli" which had what looked like 20 people on the cover, as tempted as I was to buy it I passed and never looked back. God, I probably haven't heard a Milli Vanilli song since '90 or '91, but I can almost bet I still have a cassingle of them somewhere in a box in the garage.

Ryo Vie said...

Oh how I miss cassingles! Just the word itself brings back great memories.

I'll bet you have a lot of stuff you forgot about in that box in the garage. I'll bet my copy of Janet Jackson's Nasty Boys is in mine!