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At the age of six he took jazz piano lessons at Washington Elementary School. He was taught by Dr Herb Wong who was a jazz journalist, disc jockey and music teacher.
His debut CBS album was In The Center (1978), a jazz fusion album featuring "On the Path" and "I Like the Music Make It Hot". Although aged 20 when he recorded the album, he had already developed his own sound which was influenced by McCoy Tyner and George Duke, Chick Corea and Lonnie Liston Smith.
In 1980 the album You'll Never Know saw some major chart success with "The Groove" (it reached number 7 in the UK Singles Chart). The track was released on both 7" and 12" format. It created a UK dance craze called 'The Freeze' which was started up by DJ Chris Hill.
Additional albums which were also recorded on the CBS label have included Rodney Franklin (released in 1980), Endless Flight (1981), Learning To Love (1982), Marathon (1984) (probably his most famous in the UK, produced by bass player Stanley Clarke), 'Skydance' (1985) and 'It Takes Two' (1986).
In 1988 he moved over to the BMG record label and recorded Diamond Inside Of You which introduced vocals by Jennifer Holliday on the single, "Gotta Give It Up". In addition, Franklin has also produced and released an album on Nova Records called Love Dancin' in 1992.