The Tragic Death Of Rob Pilatus

During the late 1980s, there were few overnight sensations that gained as much attention as Milli Vanilli, the German-French pop-R&B duo that had three No. 1 hits and one No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989 alone. Even as early as then, many fans felt that there might be something fishy about the duo of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan — for one, interviews with the pair clearly suggested that English was not their first language, thus making it hard to believe they sounded so fluent on their recordings. Then there was that live performance in Connecticut where their background audio track started skipping. Still, the jig wasn't officially up until they made the big reveal shortly after winning a Grammy for Best New Artist — the real voices behind Milli Vanilli were veteran studio singers.

More than three decades later, Milli Vanilli remains the subject of many a meme. Their name is still synonymous with the different types of "studio magic" allegedly used by producers to make good-looking, yet vocally challenged wannabe pop stars sound like a million bucks. However, what happened to Pilatus in the aftermath of their brief moment in the spotlight is no laughing matter. While Morvan eventually did well for himself as a singer-songwriter, product pitchman, and disc jockey, as noted by HuffPost, Pilatus sadly died at a young age after struggling to deal with the fallout from the Milli Vanilli scandal. 

Pilatus was found dead after an apparent overdose

In the years following Milli Vanilli's fall from grace, Rob Pilatus had various run-ins with the law while battling a gripping substance abuse problem, as documented by the Los Angeles Times. In 1991, he was taken down by sheriff's deputies after an apparent suicide attempt, and four years later, in December 1995, he pleaded no contest to charges of assaulting an acquaintance with a deadly weapon. In early 1996, he allegedly vandalized another man's home and was arrested for a separate incident where he purportedly broke into a car and attacked the vehicle's owner. By June, he was again wanted by police after purportedly abandoning a North Hollywood drug rehabilitation facility. As of the spring of 1998, he had spent the last several months in a drug withdrawal program in his home country of Germany.

According to Variety, Pilatus, then only 32 years old, was found dead on April 3, 1998, in a hotel room near Frankfurt. His death was ruled accidental with no signs of suicide or foul play, as it was discovered that he had consumed a "deadly" combination of alcohol and prescription pills. On the day before his passing, there were already some disturbing signs that Pilatus was in bad shape, as former Milli Vanilli producer Frank Farian recalled that the singer showed up at his studio "very intoxicated and shivering all over."

In a statement, Pilatus' Milli Vanilli colleague Fab Morvan said that he was feeling "tremendous pain and sorrow upon hearing the news of [his] friend and brother Rob." According to The Things, the duo had just recorded an album, titled "Back and in Attack," that featured their actual singing voices, but its release was canceled following Pilatus' tragic death.