RIP Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate
The smooth, soulful vocalist behind such songs as “You Sexy Thing,” “Every 1’s a Winner,” and “Emma” has been silenced: Errol Brown, the lead singer of Hot Chocolate has died at the age of 71 from liver cancer.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in either 1943 or 1944 (the date seems to fluctuate depending on which source you check), Lester Errol Brown moved to the UK just before entering his teens, but his gateway into a career in music came as a result of Brown and his longtime musical companion, Tony Wilson, deciding to try and make some money by reggae-fying popular songs. Brown wanted to cover John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” with some tweaks to the lyrics, but to do so, he needed the songwriter’s permission. As it turned out, Lennon was entertained by the cover and not only gave Brown the go-ahead but also helped score Brown and Wilson a deal with Apple Records. Unfortunately, their band – which also featured Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson, Harvey Hinsley, and Patrick Olive – didn’t really have a name, so a secretary at Apple called them The Hot Chocolate Band, which was soon shortened to Hot Chocolate, reportedly by producer Mickie Most.
Hot Chocolate had three top-10 hits in the US – they’re the songs we mentioned in the opening paragraph, if you were wondering –but for most Americans, the band was known for a single track: “You Sexy Thing,” which is not a bad track to be known for. In the UK, though, Hot Chocolate earned 11 top-10 hits (or 13 if you count the two times when the Ben Liebrand remix of “You Sexy Thing” hit the top 10, in 1987 and 1997), plus an additional 13 songs that made it into the top 40. In addition, after Hot Chocolate broke up in 1986, Brown had an occasional solo career, earning a few minor hits with songs like “Personal Touch,” “Body Rockin’,” “Love Goes Up and Down,” and “Send a Prayer (To Heaven).”
Because of Hot Chocolate’s comparatively limited success in the US, however, you may not be aware that Brown also had a hand in writing a song which has become the theme to one of the greatest sitcoms in recent memory: he and Wilson composed “Brother Louie,” a.k.a. the theme to FX’s Louie, which went on to be a huge hit for the band Stories.
Brown’s last album, Still Sexy – The Album, was released in 2001, but he continued touring until 2009, when he embarked upon a farewell tour. In the wake of the tour’s completion, Brown posted a message on his official website, thanking the fans who took the time to attend. “The atmosphere at the concerts were the best ever, and you played your part in making me realize just how wrong it would have been to have just drifted away and not say goodbye,” wrote Brown. “The love I felt at each concert will stay in my heart forever.”