Funk great Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate and You Sexy Thing fame dies

Errol Brown, former singer and founder of the British pop band Hot Chocolate, performs on stage during an Open Air New Year's Eve party at the landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Dec 31, 2011. -- PHOTO: EPA
Errol Brown, former singer and founder of the British pop band Hot Chocolate, performs on stage during an Open Air New Year's Eve party at the landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Dec 31, 2011. -- PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK (AFP) - Errol Brown, whose funky numbers with Hot Chocolate such as You Sexy Thing became sensations in the disco era, died Wednesday of liver cancer. He was 71.

Brown, who was born in Jamaica but spent most of his life in Britain where he was given a knighthood for his cultural contributions, died at his home in The Bahamas, said his manager, Phil Dale.

Dale called Brown "a wonderful gentleman" who was constantly writing new songs.

"There was always music wherever he was," Dale said.

Brown became a pop star almost by accident after he and friend Tony Wilson, a songwriter who became co-founder of Hot Chocolate, decided in the late 1960s to make reggae versions of hits of the day.

A reggae version of Give Peace a Chance made its way to the Beatles' Apple Records, which objected and said that the band needed permission.

But, Brown said later, John Lennon himself soon heard the reggae cover and helped the band sign to Apple Records, although Hot Chocolate soon moved to another label as the Beatles were splitting up.

"I never grew up wanting to be a pop star; I never grew up interested in performing music at all," Brown told Britain's Telegraph newspaper in a 2009 interview as he embarked on a farewell tour.

Hot Chocolate became a rare black British act to achieve commercial success in the 1970s, and the band's danceable numbers enjoyed a spike in popularity as disco came into vogue.

The band put out hits each year through the mid-1980s including You Sexy Thing, It Started With a Kiss, Everyone's a Winner, Love is Life and Brother Louie.

Brown went solo in 1985 and achieved modest success with songs such as Personal Touch, although he never achieved the same fame as with Hot Chocolate.

Despite winning sex symbol status with his on-stage persona and often suggestive lyrics, Brown was said to be uninterested in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and was married for around 35 years to his wife Ginette, who survives him along with two daughters.