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Album: Greatest HitsReleased: 1973Charted:
Hot Chocolate was an interracial (four black members, two white) group from London who had a hit in 1975 with "You Sexy Thing
." Written by their lead singer Errol Brown and bass player Tony Wilson, "Brother Louie" is about a romance between a white man and a black woman.
Errol Brown was born in Jamaica and raised by a single mother, who moved him to England when he was young. He told Melody Maker that this song was inspired by real-life experience. "That comes from early dating in a place where there's a majority of white people," he said. "That was fine for us because we grew up and rubbed shoulders with other nationalities so it wasn't a heavy thing. But in those days a lot of white parents never had anything to do with black people. It was understandable – they just didn't know what was going on, apart from what they read in books or saw on TV: jungle scenes."
The spoken interludes in this song were performed by the British blues musician Alexis Korner. It was pretty controversial stuff, as Korner said, "I don't want no honky in my family" and "I don't want no spook in my family."
The Hot Chocolate version of this song didn't gain any traction in the United States, possibly because of the subject matter. The spoken sections portraying the parents' reactions to the interracial couple were rather graphic, using the epithets "Honky" and "Spook," which was enough to scare many radio stations away.
About six months after Hot Chocolate's version was issued, the New York City group Stories recorded the song and released it as a single. Their version, which left out the spoken parts and a verse where Louie meets the girl's parents, featured a more pronounced string section and proved much more palatable to American listeners, and went to #1 in the US in August 1973. It was the only hit for Stories.
Other artists to record this song include The Drifters, Code Red, and the Quireboys, whose version hit #31 in the UK.
Errol Brown is proud of Hot Chocolate's tag as Britain's first multiracial pop band. He told the Mail On Sunday January 25, 2009: "That was deliberate. I wanted to show the world that we could work together, whatever our color or creed. It may sound idealistic, but bigotry and prejudice have always offended my sensibilities. I thought it important to show that we were all God's children and needed to respect each other. This is my philosophy of life. It's the way I've tried to live."
The Stories version of the song was used as the theme to the FX show Louie, starring the comedian Louis C.K. On the show, Louie's ex-wife is black.
Ian Lloyd of Stories explained to Forgotten Hits
how they came across this song: "Sitting in Bob Reno's A&R office at Buddah records, I went through a lot of different, demo tapes & discs. When I heard the chorus to 'Louie' I told Bob - 'This is a number one record – let's do it.' At the time I did NOT know that I was listening to Hot Chocolate's finished master - I thought it was just another demo. I think both versions were released around the same time... the rest is rock history."
If you thought The Stories version of this song was Rod Stewart, you're not the only one. Ian Lloyd says most people thought he was either black ("as the night") or Rod Stewart when they heard his voice. He says he even got some fan mail intended for Stewart.