In the last 36hours, the news of the death of the German singer and producer who founded Boney M and Milli Vanilli swarmed the internet. Frank Farian, though a singer, made a significant impact in global music as a producer. No one can deny the incredible genius that he was and how he shaped the glorious vinyl years in Eurodisco and pop.
According to a biography written by Christian Wolfgang Barth, Farian’s father was a fine furrier who died as a soldier in the Second World War in Smolensk, Russia, the year he was born. Frank and his two older siblings, Hertha and Heinz. His mother Cilli, who worked as a teacher, noticed Frank’s voice and made him sing in the church choir.
At 12, Frank got his first guitar. After graduating from school, he apprenticed as a chef. His love for rock” n” roll prevailed and he decided to form his own rock band. He took all of his savings and bought various equipment for his band, which didn’t even exist yet. He changed his name from Franz to Frankie and later to Frank.
In 1961, his five-piece band “Frank Farian and the Shadows” was put together and they toured the bars. Two years later, in 1963, the first self-produced record was released with a print run of 1,000 copies. The “Schatten” had their first highlight in 1964. They were one of only three German groups to appear at the International rock festival in the Starclub in Hamburg. In 1967 Frank Farian got his first record deal with Ariola. The band later broke up and Farian decided to remain solo as an artist and producer.
He now devoted himself more to the more lucrative hit business. This also led to an appearance on the ZDF hit parade in 1969. In 1971 a production contract was signed with Hansa-Berlin, which still exists today. Farian had his big breakthrough in 1976 with the start of the group “Boney M.” The single “Daddy Cool” hit like a bomb. The hit was placed in the charts not only in Germany, but throughout Europe. “Sunny” also became a huge success and Boney M’s debut album “Take The Heat Of Me” proved to be an absolute top seller. But the nerve-wracking and strenuous work also left its mark.
Farian suffered a heart attack at the age of just 36. The man who was trained to cook food decided to cook hit records. Boney M., which he founded, had 38 top ten hits between 1975 and 1988, including 15 No.1 placements in Germany, 22 top ten hits in England, five of which were No.1 placements. Three titles by Boney M. grace the all-time bestseller list in England: “Mary’s Boychild”, “Rivers Of Babylon” and “Brown Girl In The Ring”. Frank Farian didn’t just concentrate on “Boney M.”, in 1977 he helped the group “Eruption” into the top ten.
He produced hits such as Daddy Cool (1976), Ma Baker (1977), Rasputin (1978) and Rivers of Babylon (1978) for the Eurodisco band, Boney M. Farian sang the deep-voiced male vocal and used Bobby Farrell as the public persona for the group instead.
In 1978, Farian’s entry into the Guinness Book of Records followed: 175,000 singles of “Mary’s Boychild” sold in just one day and 2.2 million within four weeks- a world record at the time. He was also awarded the “Carl Allen Award” and Queen Elizabeth II received “Boney M.” as the most successful pop group in England.
Frank Farian was in high demand on the international music scene. Big stars who produced in his Rosbach studio, included Stevie Wonder, who recorded his global hit “I just called to say I love you” with Farian in 1982.
He exploited his own instinct for talent, discovering many. In 1988, Farian achieved another milestone. With Milli Vanilli’s “Girl you know it’s true”, the single and album were number one on the charts for six weeks. Indeed, Milli Vanilli reached platinum in the USA and received a Grammy for “Best New Act”.
The lip-synching technique that Farian introduced to the group would later become a major music scandal. He had assembled Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus-both dancers-as Milli Vanilli using studio artists in the actual recording of their album. By the time the world found out about this lip-synching, they lost their Grammy and public respect. Rob plunged into depression and later died of drug overdose. Fab returned to the drawing board, took music lessons and vocal training and continued to record and perform music till this day.
On his part, Farian did good and was honoured with two 10x platinum diamond LPs in 1991 for Milli Vanilli and “Boney M.” albums. This award made him the most successful producer in pop history.
Farian formed “La Bouche” from 1994 and the group “No Mercy”, with which he also celebrated global success. In 1997, Farian was awarded the “Echo” for his life’s work.
Farian, who also produced for Meat Loaf, sold over 800 million records worldwide, making him the most successful and influential German pop producer with a complex music legacy.
In a message on X, Milli Vanilli pays tribute to the music legend.
“Frank Farian has left the stage forever. He passed away at his home in Miami at the age of 82.”
Although the legendary producer had no known affiliations to Africa, his hit songs largely influenced pop culture and choral activities in African schools. “Brown Girl in The Ring” and “Rivers of Babylon” were very popular in the 70s and 80s.
Farian had a heart transplant surgery in 2022 and lived under the radar till his death.