Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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News Item

Errol Brown R.I.P.

Errol Brown photo
Errol Brown photo

Tributes from around the world from fans and fellow music stars have poured in, after the sad news that former Hot Chocolate front man Errol Brown has lost his battle with liver cancer at the age of 71.

His manager Phil Dale confirmed the news that Errol had passed away at his home in the Bahamas today (Wednesday 6th May) with his Mauritian-born wife Ginette and their two daughters Colette and Leonie by his side. “There was always music around wherever he was. I’ve been with him in the middle of Australia and he has got an idea for a song and started writing.”

“Everybody uses the word gentleman, but he really was a gentleman. He was a very personal friend of mine and he will be missed. I haven’t been anywhere in the world where I haven’t heard his music.”

The singer, famous for hits including You Sexy Thing and It Started With A Kiss, shot to fame with Britain’s multi-cultural pop-soul band in 1970 with the Top 10 hit “Love Is Life,” and 26 Top 40 chart hits.
“You Sexy Thing, hit the Top 10 three times, and bounced back into the spotlight in 1997 when the hit British film, “The Full Monty,” featured the track in a hilarious dance scene set in the queue of a Dole office. Prince Charles famously took part in a recreation of the scene, when he was filmed by newsmen clicking his fingers and shaking his hips to the Hot Chocolate song, with members of the cast.

Hot Chocolate scored their only number one single with “So You Win Again,” in 1977, and they also had three separate chart entries with their timeless song, “It Started With A Kiss,” which is a big favourite at weddings for the happy couple's first dance.

Despite the success, the fame and the fortune, Errol quit the band and the music business to spend more time with his wife and family, buying a mansion in Surrey, becoming a racehorse owner and eventually undertaking several solo tours.

Born in Jamaica in 1943 to a teenage mother and an absent policeman Father, she left home when he was just seven to come to the UK, and did not send for Errol until he was 12. He was brought up by relatives, and spoke of being beaten and treated badly.

After he flew to the UK to be re-united with his Mother in South London, he was sent to a private school where his Jamaican accent was replaced with a posh English accent.

After leaving school he got a job in the Treasury as a clerical officer. When his mother died of cancer when Errol was 20, he began to find an interest in music.

He recorded a version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance,” and when John Lennon heard about it, he wanted to make sure the lyrics had not been changed. Errol went to Apple Corp, the record label the Fab Four owned, to ask permission to release the track. Lennon heard it, liked it and decided to release it on the Apple label. A secretary at the label suggested the name Hot Chocolate for the band.

Hot Chocolate had hits in more than 50 countries, and they were one of just three acts to score a hit in the UK chart in every year of the 1970s, and up to 1984. They had fans in high places, and performed for Charles and Diana at play Buckingham Palace.
After the Apple label closed, Hot Chocolate singed to RAK Records and worked for most of their career with the late producer Mickie Most.

Errol was made an MBE by the Queen in 2003 for services to popular music and received an Ivor Novello Outstanding Contribution award for his contribution to British music, in 2004.
Hot Chocolate were the UK’s second multiracial pop group after Eddy Grant and the Equals. It was important to Errol and the band to promote racial harmony, and appeal to a wide audience and he had spoken of his pride of being part of a quest for racial harmony. A young boy who had arrived in Britain to see “No Blacks, No Dog, No Irish,”signs in the windows of boarding houses In London.

Among stars paying tribute to Errol tonight, is Beverley Knight, who said: “I am so gutted. Errol Brown was such a charismatic performer.” David Grant said: “My friend Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate died today. A unique voice, an outstanding talent and a beautiful generous man.” Producer and composer Mike Batt: “Shocked to hear of the death of my friend Errol Brown. Thinking of you, Ginette and girls. Awful news. Very sad. RIP Errol.”

Lauren Laverne: “Really sad to hear Errol Brown has passed away. By chance when our band covered a Hot Chocolate track he was in the studio next door. So we popped him a note and asked him to record an intro so he did. Lovely guy.”

His death comes days after the loss of Ben E King and Percy Sledge. Blues legend BB King is reported to be in hospice care and very poorly.

All of us at Blues & Soul send their deepest condolences to Errol’s family and friends.

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