Paying Tribute to Errol Brown
The death from liver cancer of former Hot Chocolate singer Errol Brown has seen the pop world pay tribute, with Nile Rodgers, Boy George and Kim Wilde among those paying their respects.
Although Hot Chocolate only enjoyed one British chart-topping single with So You Win Again, they had at least one Top 20 single every year from 1970 until 1984, two years before Brown left.
Their success was some feat, considering Brown initially entered the music industry largely by chance. Having moved to London from Jamaica with his mother aged 11, Brown was happily working for the Treasury when he met bassist Tony Wilson.
The pair began writing songs for the likes of Herman’s Hermits and Mary Hopkin, and only began their recording career when they did a reggae cover of John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance.
After sending the demo to Apple Records to seek permission to release it, Lennon heard it and was so impressed he decided Apple should release it themselves. The record label’s press officer Mavis Smith gave them the name The Hot Chocolate Band.
Favourable reviews saw them sign to RAK, the label owned by owned by producer Mickie Most. He had already been impressed by their work for his charges Herman’s Hermits, and quickly shortened their name to Hot Chocolate. Now expanded into a five-piece, their first major hit was Brother Louie, which had a pioneering message about inter-racial romance.
The disco era really saw Hot Chocolate succeed. You Sexy Thing was only kept from No 1 by Bohemian Rhapsody, before So You Win Again topped the chart in 1977. Other landmark hits included Every 1’s A Winner, No Doubt About It and It Started With A Kiss.
However, while they were regulars in the singles chart, their albums were generally failures, with the No 25 peak of Mystery in 1982 their highest-charting position. However, singles compilations released in 1987 and 1993 both reached No 1.
With the band’s success on the wane, Brown left in 1986, but minor hits Personal Touch and Body Rockin’ were his only successes. He had made enough money not to need to work again, and mainly lived in semi-retirement in Surrey with his wife Ginette. Brown was one of the few musicians to be a public supporter of the Conservative party in the 1980s.
Following its use in The Full Monty and Boogie Nights, You Sexy Thing became the only single to reach the Top 10 in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, while artists to cover Hot Chocolate include The Sisters Of Mercy and PJ Harvey.
Brown was awarded an MBE in 2003 and went on a farewell tour in 2009. He is survived by Ginette and the couple’s two daughters.
— Nile Rodgers (@nilerodgers) May 6, 2015
Happy days with the gorgeous Errol Brown pic.twitter.com/VTmyQfz6ZN
— Kim Wilde (@kimwilde) May 6, 2015
Wow. Goodbye Errol Brown. Hot Chocolate made records that would instantly kick of any party! R.I.P you will be missed!
— Boy George (@BoyGeorge) May 6, 2015