Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Melvin Franklin (David Melvin English) (October 12 1942 - February 22 1995) was an African American bass singer, best known for his role as a member of Motown singing group The Temptations from 1961 to 1994. Franklin's nephew was Rick James, later a Motown star in his own right during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, David English, the son of a preacher, moved to Detroit, Michigan at the age of nine. Taking on his mother's surname of Franklin, he 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 cousin Richard Street.
One day walking home from Northwestern High School, Franklin was approached by a tall, dark teenager who was adamantly trying to get his attention. Thinking the stranger was a gang member, Franklin ran and attempted to dodge his pursuer before learning that the young man was Otis Williams, a singer in a local group called The Distants. 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.
Best friends for over thirty years, Williams and Franklin were the only two Tempts never to 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, even though he very rarely had a featured solo track on the Tempts' albums. Franklin was ususally 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. After Williams insisted that Franklin withdraw from recording and performing so that he could rest and get better, Franklin lapsed into a coma on February 17, 1995 and died six days later on February 23 of a brain seizure, at the age of 53.
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