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Obituaries : Melvin Franklin; Temptations' Original Bass Vocalist

February 24, 1995|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Melvin Franklin, the original bass singer of the perennially popular Temptations who anchored such hits as "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "My Girl," died Thursday. He was 52.

Franklin died of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a week after he was admitted following a series of seizures. His condition had been complicated by diabetes.

Born David English on Oct. 12, 1942, in Montgomery, Ala., Franklin fondly remembered getting kicked out of school for singing in the hallways.

He was a 15-year-old street singer in Detroit when he met Otis Williams. The two worked together in the Distants and the Primes, a group recruited by Detroit's Motown Records founder Berry Gordy in 1960.

Two years later, the group became the Temptations, recording the debut song "Oh Mother, O Mine" on Miracle, a Motown subsidiary label.

The other original members of the quintet were Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Eldridge Bryant. Bryant was replaced one year later by David Ruffin.

Franklin and Otis Williams were the only two original members who stayed with the group through its cycles of popularity.

"I guess you could say it's kind of like an NFL training camp," Williams once told The Times. "But aside from talent, we look for character. What a man's like mentally and spiritually is just as--if not more--important to us than whether he can sing or dance."

In September, the Temptations were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Flowers were placed on that star Thursday as news of Franklin's death spread.

In 1989, Franklin and Otis Williams were honored by the Brotherhood Crusade for three decades in the music business.

Franklin's basso profundo was the heart of the Temptations, with much of the group's harmonizing overlaying it.

After the group's first hit, "The Way You Do the Things You Do" with writer-producer Smokey Robinson, the Temptations saw hit after hit.

Over the years, their brand of toe-tapping rock and soul sold about 22 million records, including such hits as "It's Growing," "Since I Lost My Baby," "Don't Look Back," "Get Ready," "All I Need," "You're My Everything," "Just My Imagination," "Beauty's Only Skin Deep," "Cloud Nine," "Runaway Child" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

The group also continued to perform about 200 nights a year in concerts on the road.

The Temptations made it all look easy. But each of those synchronized-as-a-Swiss-watch movements was the product of six-hour rehearsal sessions over six weeks.

"Music goes in cycles," Franklin said. "I think it's coming to a time now that good group singing is accepted again, and this is what we've always been about."

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