John Davis, a session musician who provided vocals for Milli Vanilli, has died at 66. As his daughter Jasmin confirmed in a Facebook post, the cause was COVID-19.
“This is Jasmin, Johns daughter,” she wrote. “[U]nfortunately my dad passed away this evening through the coronavirus. 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.”
Alongside Brad Howell, Charles Shaw, Jodie Rocco, and Linda Rocco, Davis was recruited by German producer Frank Farian in the late ’80s to sing on a demo of “Girl You Know It’s True”. In 1988, the song became a hit, but rather than crediting the real vocalists, Farian presented it as a single by Milli Vanilli, the moniker he’d bestowed on models Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus.
The sham began to fall apart in 1989 during a live performance on MTV. Technical problems caused the track on “Girl You Know It’s True” to skip, while Morvan and Pilatus danced silently, unable to address the crowd because their mics weren’t on. The scandal expanded in 1990 when Milli Vanilli inexplicably won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Amid mounting evidence of lip-synching, Farian eventually admitted the truth: Morvan and Pilatus were terrible singers. Disgraced, they returned their Grammys.
That same year, Davis and his fellow session musician Brad Howell tried to rebrand as The Real Deal. As Davis told The Washington Post, he harbored no ill-will towards “those cats with the real nice-looking faces,” as he called them. “They had the faces, we had the voices,” he said. “If they don’t have the Grammy, I don’t want it either. Besides we’re going to get it next year anyway.”
That plan didn’t quite work out, but eventually he embraced his brush with infamy. In 2015, he and Fab Morvan performed together under the name Face Meets Voice. Below, check out performances by Milli Vanilli, Face Meets Voice, and a solo cover of “Hallelujah” shared by Davis’ daughter.