Rob(ert) Pilatus (8 June 1965 – 2 April 1998) was an American-born German model, dancer, and singer. Pilatus was half of the pop music duo Milli Vanilli, the other one being Frenchman Fabrice Morvan.
Rob Pilatus was born in New York, the son of an American soldier and a German mother. He was adopted as a baby by a Munich family. Pilatus worked as a model and breakdancer, also appearing as a backing singer with the group Wind at the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest in Brussels, finishing in second place, before joining Fab Morvan in 1988 to form the pop group Milli Vanilli.
Both Pilatus and Morvan were noticed by German music producer Frank Farian, who signed them to be part of a musical act. Shortly after a trip to Turkey, where the duo reputedly took its name from a local advertising slogan, Milli Vanilli was born. Pilatus and Morvan served as the public faces for singers Charles Shaw and Brad Howell, who Farian thought were vocally talented, 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 21 February 1990, for "Girl You Know It's True".
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 Milli Vanilli's Grammy Award was withdrawn four days later, and Arista Records dropped them from its roster and deleted their album and songs from their catalog, making Girl You Know It's True the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 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.
Decline, addiction and turn to crime
In the years following the collapse of Milli Vanilli, Pilatus struggled with substance abuse and even suicide attempts. After their unsuccessful comeback, Morvan and Pilatus stopped speaking to each other. In 1996, Pilatus served three months in prison for assault, vandalism and attempted robbery. Farian paid for Pilatus to spend six months in drug rehabilitation, before returning to Germany from the United States.
On 3 April 1998, on the eve of a promotional tour for a new completed Milli Vanilli album entitled Back and in Attack featuring Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan on lead vocals, Pilatus was found dead at the age of 32 from a suspected alcohol and prescription pill overdose in "Kent's Cube" at Friedrichsdorf, near Frankfurt. His death was ruled accidental, and their final album has never been released.
He was survived by his son and his sister.
Pilatus is buried in the Waldfriedhof in Munich.
- All or Nothing (1988)
- All or Nothing (remix album) (1989)
- Girl You Know It's True (1989)
- The Remix Album (1990)
- Back and in Attack (1998; unreleased)
- Greatest Hits (2006)
Rob & Fab
- Rob & Fab (1993)