David Melvin English (October 12, 1942 – February 23, 1995) better known by the stage name Melvin Franklin, or his nickname "Blue", 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 Richard Street. Franklin often referred to Street and Ruffin 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 fellow singers. According to Otis Williams, Franklin romantically pursued Supremes singer Mary Wilson at one point.
Otis and Melvin were the only Temptations who 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.
Health problems and death
In the late 1960s, Franklin was diagnosed with 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. The incident prevented Franklin from participating in the Temptations' upcoming tour of Poland, which at the time was still under the Iron Curtain.
On February 17, 1995, after a series of seizures, Melvin collapsed into a coma and remained unconscious until his death on February 23, 1995, he died in his wife Kimberly's arms. He left behind six children (David English Jr., Davette English, Nicqueos English, Arkellian Arreaga, LaRissa Douglass and Felica English). His mother Rose Franklin died in March of 2013.
He is entombed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California in Courts of Remembrance, C-3571, outer south-east wall.
Other work and honors
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. He also appeared in the movie Sky Bandits in 1986.
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. On February 9, 2013, his wife received the lifetime achievement award on his behalf.