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Melvin Franklin (born David Melvin English; October 12, 1942 – February 23, 1995) was an American bass singer, best known for his role as a member of Motown singing group The Temptations from 1961 to 1994.


Born in Montgomery, Alabamamarker in 1942, David Melvin English, the son of a preacher, moved to Detroit, Michiganmarker at the age of nine. Taking on his mother's married name of Franklin for his stage name, he was a member of a number of local singing groups in Detroit, including The Voice Masters with Lamont Dozier and David Ruffin (a distant cousin of Franklin), and frequently performed with his cousin Richard Street.

One day, walking home from Northwestern High School, Franklin was approached by a large teenager who was adamantly trying to get his attention. Thinking the stranger was a gang member, Franklin ran away 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. 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), "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 ", "and the band played on", became Franklin's trademark.

In the late 1960s, Franklin was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the symptoms of which he combatted 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. On February 17th, 1995, Franklin lapsed into a coma and died six days later on February 23 of a brain seizure, at the age of 52. He is survived by his wife, Kimberly English, and his four children: David Jr., Davette, Felicia, and Niqous. Franklin is entombed in an outdoor crypt at Forest Lawn - Hollywood hill Cemeterymarker.

In 1998, Franklin was portrayed by actor D.B. Woodside in the Temptations miniseries for NBC.

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