John Davis was a vocalist on Milli Vanilli's hit debut album, which later became the center of a lip-syncing controversy

By Eric Todisco
May 27, 2021 11:25 AM
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John Davis
John Davis
| Credit: Nico Schimmelpfennig/picture alliance via Getty

John Davis, one of the real vocalists behind the legendary R&B duo Milli Vanilli, died on Monday from COVID-19. He was 66.

Davis' daughter Jasmin shared the news in a Facebook post Monday that featured a video of her dad performing.

"Unfortunately my dad passed away this evening through the coronavirus," Jasmin wrote. "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."

Jasmin also started a GoFundMe page to help with Davis' funeral expenses and to give him "one last performance, with people he loved and got loved from." The page has raised over €10,258 as of Thursday morning.

Fab Morvan and John davis
Fab Morvan and John Davis
| Credit: Tristar Media/Getty

Davis, who was born in South Carolina and moved to Germany, was a backup singer for Milli Vanilli, a German-French band that was created in 1988 by music producer Frank Farian and fronted by Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus. The band rose to fame with their 1989 debut album Girl You Know It's True, which earned a Grammy Award in 1990 for best new artist.

However, later that year it was revealed that Morvan and Pilatus were actually lip-syncing and Davis, as well as other backup singers for the band, were the true vocalists behind the album.

Due to the scandal, the group's Grammy was rescinded.

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"We made the mistake ourselves, but it's true, we let our fans down," Morvan, now 55, said in a Los Angeles Times piece published in November 1990. "For them we are idols and they loved our videos and bought the records and we let them down. It's very hard, I know. I just hope they will forgive us."

Added Pilatus, who died in 1998 at age 33, "I know it's going to be hard for the kids to stand behind us. But I hope they understand that we are just two human guys who were so hungry for success that we allowed ourselves to be manipulated."

Milli Vanilli
Milli Vanilli
| Credit: Michael Putland/Getty
Fab Morvan and John davis
Fab Morvan and John Davis
| Credit: Tristar Media/Getty

After Milli Vanilli disbanded, Davis decided to start his own short-lived band called The Real Milli Vanilli with Brad Howell, one of the album's other singers. Together, the two released an album, The Moment of Truth, in 1991 and dropped three singles.

Morvan paid tribute to Davis following news of his death on Twitter. "R.I.P BROTHER @JohnDavisRMV CAN'T BELIEVE IT, THANKS FOR ALL THE LOVE YOU'VE SPREAD THROUGH OUT THE YEARS, FROM THE EDGE OF THE STAGE. YOU AND I HAD A GREAT RUN, IT WAS FUN TO CELEBRATE LIFE WITH THE HELP OF MUSIC. PEACE ONE LOVE YOUR VOICE WILL LIVE ON. PLAY IT LOUD EVERYBODY," he wrote.

Milli Vanilli's official Twitter account also honored Davis, writing, "It's a sad day..... RIP John. We wouldn't be who we are without you......"