Melvin attended Northwestern High, where he would meet Otis Williams. Being from a somewhat sheltered background Melvin was innocent by Detroit standards. When Otis first approached him, Melvin ran away, thinking that Otis, with his processed hair, looked like a tough customer, intent on beating him up.
Otis introduced himself to Melvin's mother, Momma Rose, while Melvin waited across the street, hiding behind a tree. That would be the beginning of a tight relationship between the two that would last until Melvin's death.
Melvin would be an integral part of The Temptations, he anchored the group's sound with his rumbling basso profundo, a hallmark of the group's sound, and his rendition of "old Man River" from the Musical "showboat" would always be a highlight of The Temptations concerts. Few singers are so well recognized that they can bring down the house with the first few words of a song. Melvin Franklin could do just that, show after show, and he was proud to be a member of The Temptations. Many times he would be rewarded the yearly "Motown Spirit Award" presented to the person who most exemplified what Motown was all about. His graceful style was a model for the consciously upscale image that Motown founder Berry Gordy sought for The Temptations.
By 1993, Franklin had become ill, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other maladies he seldom spoke about to friends. During a tour of England in 1994, Melvin used an oxygen tank backstage, and had to be taken to and from the stage in a wheelchair. Melvin wouldn't perform again after July of 1994. On February 17, 1995, after a series of seizures, Melvin was unconscious when paramedics brought him into Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, where he would remain, never regaining consciousness, for six days until his death which was attributed to heart failure.