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R.I.P., Frank Farian: German Producer Behind Boney M., Far Corporation, Milli Vanilli and No Mercy, Dead at 82

Between his various musical creations, Farian sold over 850 million records worldwide.

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Source: MEGA

Frank Farian at the musical premiere of 'Falco meets Amadeus' held at the Capitol Theatre Duesseldorf, Germany in 2006

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Frank Farian, the German music producer and singer who built a multi-million selling career out of creating music groups to lip-sync material sung by behind-the-scenes performers, has died at the age of 82. Farian’s passing, which occurred at his home in Miami, Florida, was announced by his family through a statement released by his agency.

Born in Kirn, Germany on July 18, 1941, Farian – birth name Franz Reuther – was actually on a career path to become a cook until he fell in love with rock and roll music, which led him to change his name and pursue a career in music. Although he had a certain amount of success as a solo performer in Germany, it was his work as a producer and songwriter for the group Boney M. that firmly established him in the music business.

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Source: MEGA

Frank Farian at the aftershow party for the premiere of the musical 'Daddy Cool' Berlin, Germany, in 2007

The Boney M. story effectively began when Farian recorded the song “Baby Do You Wanna Bump” and released it not under his own name but, rather, under the moniker “Boney M,” eventually hiring a group to perform the song for performances on TV and in discos. The lineup for the group consisted of Bobby Farrell, Maizie Williams, Marcia Barrett, and Liz Mitchell, and although they found limited success in the US, earning only a single top-40 hit (“Rivers of Babylon,” which made it to No. 30), they had more than a dozen top-40 hits in the UK, including – but not limited to – “Daddy Cool,” “Sunny,” “Ma Baker,” “Belfast,” “Rasputin,” and “Mary’s Boy Child / Oh My Lord.” As recently as 2023, Mitchell was still leading the group on a US package tour with Samantha Fox and Bad Boys Blue.

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After Boney M.’s chart fortunes began to fade, Farian created a new band called Far Corporation, and while they didn’t have the same sort of staying power, they hold a surprising place in music history in 1985 as the first group ever to chart with a version of “Stairway to Heaven.” (Led Zeppelin never released the song as a single.) The cover hit No. 8 in the UK and cracked the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, hitting No. 89.

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The following year, Farian produced Meat Loaf's Blind Before I Stop album, which spawned a single top-40 hit in the UK with the John Parr duet, "Rock 'n' Roll Mercenaries," but it was the work Farian did a few years later that really cemented him as a hitmaker for a new generation, even though it also served to remind audiences that he had a history with creating groups that were less about live performances and more about having hits.

With Milli Vanilli, Farian provided listeners with five top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “Girl You Know It’s True” (No. 2), “All or Nothing” (No. 4), and the chart-toppers “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “Blame It on the Rain,” and “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You.” The group’s success was so profound that they ended up winning the Best New Artist award at the 32nd Grammy Awards, but things went belly up for the group when Farian held a press conference in November 1990 where he fired Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan – the guys who everyone had been led to believe were Milli Vanilli – and announced that they didn’t sing on the records. In short order, their Grammy was revoked, and the group's career went up in smoke.

“What was the betrayal?” Farian asked in an interview with the L.A. Times. “Did anyone in America believe that the Village People or the Monkees really sang themselves? The Archies? Please. Everyone’s been doing it for 25 years. Madonna, Janet Jackson--these perfect dance shows are expected now. So the best way to go onstage is with tapes. But you have to say what you’re doing. Here in Europe everyone is more cool. Read the American press and you’d think I’m more important than Saddam [Hussein].”

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None of the Milli Vanilla shenanigans, however, really did anything to damage Farian’s career or reputation in the music business. He continued to work with such artists as La Bouche and No Mercy, scoring hits with “Be My Lover” and “Where Do You Go,” respectively. He also produced the musical Daddy Cool, which featured songs by Boney M. as well as Milli Vanilli, La Bouche, and No Mercy, and became a big hit in London’s West End and toured successfully throughout Europe.

When all was said and done, Farian’s work as a songwriter and producer resulted in more than 850 million records sold throughout the world and earned him 800 gold and platinum certifications, which – you have to admit – is pretty darned impressive, no matter who was doing the singing.

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