Errol Brown, singer with Hot Chocolate, dies at 71

HE WAS the frontman of a band which boasted 25 UK top 40 hit singles and was signed to a major music label after impressing John Lennon with a cover of one of his songs.

Errol Brown performing in Edinburgh in 2001. Picture: TSPL
Errol Brown performing in Edinburgh in 2001. Picture: TSPL

But last night the music world was mourning Hot Chocolate singer Errol Brown, who has died aged 71.

The singer, famous for hits including You Sexy Thing and It Started With a Kiss, died at home in the Bahamas of liver cancer, his manager said.

Tributes poured in for Brown, who is survived by his wife Ginette and two daughters, Colette and Leonie. He was made an MBE in 2003 and a year later received a prestigious Ivor Novello award for his outstanding contribution to British music.

Manager Phil Dale said the singer, who moved to Britain from Jamaica with his mother at the age of 12, was “a wonderful gentleman”.

He said: “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. Errol was a lover of life and obviously music. I never went into his home, car or a hotel room without music playing. And it always played constantly in his dressing room before a concert.”

He added: “Errol was a gentle man and was a personal friend of mine who will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him. His greatest legacy is that his music will live on.”

Brown scored his first success with Hot Chocolate in 1970 with the top 10 track Love Is Life and then had more than 20 top 40 hits, many of which he wrote.

You Sexy Thing made it into the top 10 three times – helped along in 1997 by its use in the film The Full Monty. The band had their only number one with So You Win Again in 1977. Hot Chocolate, who formed in Brixton, south London, had fans in high places, having received their initial big break from John Lennon, who approved a reggae version of Give Peace a Chance and ultimately saw the band signed on his own label, Apple.

In 1981, they played at a pre-wedding bash in Buckingham Palace for the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.

Earlier, their debut song had paved the way for the band to be signed to Mickie Most’s RAK label, where they remained until the mid-eighties.

Among those paying tribute was singer Beverley Knight who said: “I am gutted. Errol was such a charismatic performer.” Comedian and fan Roy Chubby Brown added: “Another loss to the entertainment world.”

After playing a 21-date farewell tour in 2009, which saw him perform in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Perth, Brown paid tribute to his fans on his website: “The atmosphere at the concerts were the best ever and you played your part in making me realise how wrong it would have been to have just drifted away and not say goodbye.”