COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – John Davis, one of the real vocalists behind lip-syncing pop duo Milli Vanilli, died of coronavirus this week, his family said. He was 66 years old.
Davis died on Monday in Nuremberg, Germany, where he had lived and performed for a long time, his daughter Jasmin Davis said in a Facebook post.
“We are incredibly sad and heartbroken,” Davis told The Associated Press in a Facebook post.
Davis was credited with the backing vocals, but was truly a lead singer on Milli Vanilli’s albums, whose rapid rise in the music world was followed by an equally rapid fall.
After the first single “Girl You Know It’s True” and the # 1 hits including “Blame It On the Rain” and “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”, Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1989.
When it was revealed that neither of them actually sang on Milli Vanilli’s records, the band was stripped of the Grammys months later and disbanded, re-forming as Rob and Fab in 1991, but getting little success. commercial success. The duo faced legal challenges, including a successful lawsuit by 1960s band Blood, Sweat and Tears, which accused Morvan and Pilatus of stealing the “Spinning Wheel” tune for “Girl You Know It’s True.”
Born in Anderson, South Carolina, Davis lived much of his life in Germany after being posted there for the first time in the U.S. Army in the 1970s, he told The Hustle podcast in an episode released in April.
He was living in the country where he was working as a musician in the 1980s when German music producer Frank Farian picked him to sing on a project – for several times what he had done for a regular singing concert – but didn’t tell him others would lip-sync him music, Davis says. Farian had him come to the studio late at night, separating him from the other artists, he said.
It wasn’t until later that he found out his voice was attributed to the Morvan, Davis told the podcast.
“One night, I was sitting at home watching my TV, and I saw Fab sing ‘Girl I’m Gonna Miss You’,” he says.
Nuremberg radio stations have started to recognize Davis’ voice on Milli Vanilli’s tracks, the singer said. But Davis told the podcast that he “made a lot of money” from recordings and had a comfortable life, although he didn’t achieve the fame – albeit fleeting – of the band’s faces.
The record Davis sang on has sold over 6 million copies in the United States alone. The five singles on the album were the top 5 hits.
Farian then repackaged songs that had been planned for a second Milli Vanilli album, but with Davis and another of the current singers listed as lead singers. The album reached the top 20 in Germany in 1991.
Pilatus, a former model who later turned to drugs, died alone at age 33 in a German hotel room in 1998.
Morvan and Davis remained on good terms, performing together on a German TV show in 2015. A documentary film about the rise and fall of Milli Vanilli is reportedly in the works.
“We will miss your energy, the big smile you have given me and so many others over the years, we will keep you in our hearts forever,” Morvan tweeted Friday of Davis. “Your golden voice will continue to be heard, you best believe that these classic records will live like you for eternity.”
Creation of the Davis family a GoFundMe to help pay for a service, which they called “one last performance, with people he loved and loved.”
“He made a lot of people happy with his laughter and his smile, his cheerful spirit, his love and most of all through his music,” Jasmin Davis wrote on Facebook. “He gave so much to the world!”
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