Many who recognize his voice probably couldn’t recall his name.
John Davis, one of the real singers behind the notorious German-French R&B duo Milli Vanilli, has died of COVID-19, Fox News reported Thursday. He was 66.
A last round of applause
According to the Associated Press, Davis passed away in Germany, where Milli Vanilli was born, and where he spent much of his life. The news of his death was shared by his daughter Jasmin.
“He made a lot of people happy with his laughter and smile, his happy spirit, love and especially through his music. He gave so much to the world! Please give him the last round of applause. We will miss him dearly,” she said in a Facebook post, according to Fox.
Born in South Carolina, Davis was discovered by German producer Frank Farian, also the mastermind behind the disco group Boney M., while performing in Germany in the 1980s, the AP reported. By the time Davis became known, the success of the group he helped propel to stardom had been overshadowed by scandal.
Initially credited as a backup singer, Davis was actually a lead singer for the Grammy-winning group before it was revealed that the two frontmen, Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, were lip-syncing — a transgression that might not be viewed so unkindly today, in the era of auto-tune.
Still, the meteoric success of their first album, 1988’s All or Nothing, came crashing when they had to return a Grammy for Best New Artist in disgrace, Fox noted.
Former band member pays tribute
The album had sold millions of copies and spawned several hit singles, like “Girl You Know It’s True” and “Babe Don’t Forget My Number,” and Milli Vanilli had their second album, ironically titled The Moment of Truth, ready to go when the scandal hit.
Farian attempted to parlay the controversy into the group’s image, renaming the act The Real Milli Vanilli and featuring Davis and other members on the album’s cover. The album reached the top 20 in Germany in 1991, but Milli Vanilli never quite recovered.
According to the AP, Pilatus and Morvan attempted to reboot their careers as Rob and Fab, but they failed to match their initial burst of success, and Pilatus died in 1998, at 33, of a drug overdose in a lonely German hotel room.
Despite never receiving his proper due, Davis would later tell The Hustle podcast that he was satisfied with the commercial success he found with the group during its short time in the spotlight, and he kept in touch with Morvan, who shared his own tribute to Davis.
“Peace one love. Your voice will live on. Play it loud everybody,” he tweeted, according to Fox.