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Melvin Franklin performs with The Temptations on The Ed Sullivan Show
|Birth name||David Melvin English|
October 12, 1942|
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
|Origin||Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|Died||February 23, 1995
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Genres||R&B, pop, soul|
|Labels||Warwick, Motown, Atlantic|
|Associated acts||The Temptations|
David Melvin English (October 12, 1942 – February 23, 1995) better known by the stage name Melvin Franklin, was an American bass singer. Franklin was best known for his role as a member of Motown singing group The Temptations from 1960 to 1994.
Early life and career
David English was born in Montgomery, Alabama to Rose English, a teenage mother from nearby Mobile. His biological father was the preacher of the English family's church in Mobile, who, according to his mother, impregnated her through non-consensual relations. Following David's birth, Rose English married Willard Franklin and moved to Detroit, her grandmother insisting young David be left behind in her care. David English finally moved to Detroit with his mother and stepfather in 1952 at age ten.
Taking on his stepfather's surname for his stage name as a teenager, David English - now Melvin Franklin - was a member of a number of local singing groups in Detroit, including The Voice Masters with Lamont Dozier and David Ruffin, and frequently performed with his best friend, Richard Street. Franklin often referred to Street - and Ruffin, another childhood friend - as his "cousins".
In 1958, a classmate of Franklin's at Northwestern High School, Otis Williams, invited Franklin to join his singing group, Otis Williams and the Siberians. Franklin joined the group as its bass singer, and remained with Williams and Elbridge Bryant when they, Paul Williams, and Eddie Kendricks formed The Elgins in late 1960. In March 1961, the Elgins signed with Motown Records under a new name; The Temptations. He had a fondness for the color blue, and so he was nicknamed "Blue" by his friends and fellow singers. According to Otis Williams, Franklin romantically pursued Supremes singer Mary Wilson at one point.
Best friends for over thirty years, Williams and Franklin were the only two Temptations to never quit the group. One of the most famous bass singers in black music over his long career, Franklin's deep vocals became one of the group's signature trademarks. Franklin sang a handful of featured leads with the group as well, including the songs "I Truly, Truly Believe" (The Temptations Wish It Would Rain, 1968), "Silent Night" (Give Love At Christmas, 1980), "The Prophet" (A Song for You, 1975), and his signature live performance number, Paul Robeson's "Ol' Man River". Franklin was usually called upon to deliver ad-libs, harmony vocals, and, during the psychedelic soul era, notable sections of the main verses. His line from The Temptations' 1970 #3 hit "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", "and the band played on", became Franklin's trademark.
In the late 1960s, Franklin was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the symptoms of which he combated with cortisone so that he could continue performing. The constant use of cortisone left his immune system open to other infections and health problems; as a result Franklin developed diabetes in the early 1980s and later contracted necrotizing fasciitis. In 1978 he was shot in the hand and in the leg while trying to stop a man from stealing his car in Los Angeles.
On February 17, 1995, after a series of seizures, Melvin lapsed into a coma and remained unconscious until his death on February 23, 1995.
In addition to singing, Franklin also worked as a voice actor. In 1984, he provided the voice for the character of "Wheels" in the animated series Pole Position.
In 1989, Melvin Franklin was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations. On August 17, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio Melvin Franklin was inducted into the Official R&B Music Hall of Fame along with The Temptations
In popular culture
- Ribowsky, Mark (2010). Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Endearing Soul of the Temptations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 14-16
- Ribowsky, Mark (2010). Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Endearing Soul of the Temptations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 40, 93-95
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 317. CN 5585.
- List of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees
- Melvin Franklin in-depth interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' October 1992 (reprinted February 2009)
- Melvin Franklin at the Internet Movie Database
- Melvin Franklin interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
- Melvin Franklin at Find a Grave