John Davis, a Voice Behind Milli Vanilli, Dies at 66

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

John Davis, one of the real voices behind the lip-syncing duo Milli Vanilli, died in Nuremberg, Germany, on Monday. He was 66.

His daughter, Jasmin Davis, who confirmed the news of his death on Facebook, said he had Covid-19.

While living in Germany, Mr. Davis started unknowingly singing for Milli Vanilli in the 1980s after he met Frank Farian, a German music producer. Mr. Farian asked Mr. Davis to work on a project, but he did not disclose that his voice would be used for others to lip-sync, Mr. Davis told The Hustle podcast on an episode posted in April.

Only later would he discover that his voice was being used by Fabrice Morvan, one-half of the pop duo Milli Vanilli, with Rob Pilatus.

“The truth is, I signed a contract with Frank Farian before I even knew who Milli Vanilli was,” Mr. Davis said. “One evening, I was sitting at home watching my TV, and I saw Fab singing ‘Girl I’m Gonna Miss You.’”

Milli Vanilli was best known for hits like “I’m Gonna Miss You” and “Girl You Know It’s True,” and won the Grammy for best new artist in 1989.

By 1990, Milli Vanilli’s work had sold more than seven million copies, but after Mr. Morvan and Mr. Pilatus admitted that they did not actually sing on Milli Vanilli’s albums or in concerts, they were stripped of the award.

Mr. Morvan and Mr. Pilatus then told The Los Angeles Times that they wanted to give the award to those who actually voiced their work, including Mr. Davis, Brad Howell and Charles Shaw.

“I didn’t want the Grammy because it was their faces and our voices,” Mr. Davis said. “I was mad.”

Mr. Pilatus died in 1998, but Mr. Davis and Mr. Morvan later had an amicable relationship and even performed together.

On Friday, Mr. Morvan shared a video with pictures of him performing with Mr. Davis.

“Your golden voice will continue to be heard, you best believe that those classic records will live just like you eternally,” Mr. Morvan said on Twitter.

Additional details about survivors were not immediately available on Saturday.

Mr. Davis, who was born on Aug. 31, 1954, in Anderson, S.C., was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and stayed there for much of his life, he told The Hustle podcast.

In Germany, Mr. Davis found many opportunities to play in Army clubs in the 1970s, he told the podcast.

Mr. Davis said he learned how to play music from his father, a choir director who played piano and guitar.

“My one mission I had on this earth was to become a musician and to play music,” Mr. Davis said.

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