Frank Farian, the controversial producer, songwriter, and impresario who founded Boney M. and Milli Vanilli, has died, BBC News reports, citing his family. Though no cause of death was given, he received a heart valve transplant in 2022. Farian died peacefully at his home in Miami at the age of 82.
Born Franz Reuther in West Germany, Farian was a leading proponent of Eurodisco, ultimately selling an estimated 800 million records. His rise to fame began in the 1970s with Boney M., operating behind the scenes on everything from co-writing to promotion to singing lead male parts on their tracks. Among them were the band’s biggest hit, “Daddy Cool,” which Farian recorded in a faux-deep voice but gave to the band’s Black singer Bobby Farrell to perform live.
After producing Meat Loaf’s 1986 album, Blind Before I Stop, Farian pulled a similar trick with Milli Vanilli. In 1989, during a live performance, their lip-syncing was exposed due to a faulty tape. The following year, amid mounting public skepticism, Farian admitted to hiring studio singers for Milli Vanilli recordings, which prompted the Grammys to strip the duo of its Best New Artist award. “Our producer tricked us,” bandmember Fabrice Morvan said of Farian. “We signed contracts as singers but were never allowed to contribute. It was a nightmare. We were living a lie.”
But Farian continued to write hits, including La Bouche’s Eurodance staple “Be My Lover,” and also worked with artists including Stevie Wonder and Terence Trent D’Arby. Original Boney M. member Liz Mitchell said in a statement reported by The Guardian, “Our work was truly blessed and so enjoyed by people around the world who had the privilege to hear it down the years. We shared and united under a star which rose above and beyond what we ever dared to expect. I say well done to the work that we did. Rest in peace Frank.”