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National Geographic’s “Genius” Aretha: Respect brings the incomparable back to life

National Geographic’s “Genius” Aretha: Respect brings the incomparable back to life

The third season of “Genius” Aretha: Respect sets to premiere on the National Geographic Channel on March 22! Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-winning actress Cynthia Erivo plays the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. This will explore the musical genius’s incomparable career. It would also show her immeasurable impact and lasting influence on music and culture around the world. She was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion, and widely considered the greatest singer of the past fifty years. She has also received countless honors throughout her career.

National Geographic’s “Genius” Aretha: Respect brings the incomparable back to life

“Genius” Aretha: Respect is the first-ever, definitive, and only authorized scripted series that revolves around the universally-acclaimed Queen of Soul. Franklin herself didn’t know how to read music. So, she taught herself to play the piano. At the young age of twelve, she began to record songs and sing on gospel tours with her father. Then, she signed her first record deal at age eighteen with Columbia Records. She moved to Atlantic Records in 1966 where she recorded many of her most iconic songs.

In 1979, she began a 40-year friendship and partnership with Clive Davis that led to several hit songs. Of course, this includes I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – her career-best duet with George Michael. She remains one of the world’s best-selling music artists of all time. She also has more than 75-million records sold globally during her career. Her home state of Michigan even identified her as a “natural source.”


Back-to-back episodes of “Genius” Aretha: Respect will in the Philippines. From March 22 to 25 at 9 AM to 10 AM on the National Geographic channel with a prime time repeat at 9 PM and 10 PM.

Courtney B Vance – CL Franklin; Aretha’s father

Malcolm Barrett – Ted White; Aretha’s first husband and business manager

David Cross – legendary music producer Jerry Wexler

Patrice Covington – Erma Franklin; Aretha’s sister and background singer

Rebecca Naomi Jones – Carolyn Franklin; Aretha’s sister and background singer

Steve Norfleet – Cecil Franklin; Aretha’s older brother and manager after her divorce from Ted White


Episode 1: Respect

Premieres Monday, Mar 22 at 9 am with a primetime repeat at 9 pm 

Desperate for a hit, Aretha travels to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records. After suffering the loss of her surrogate mother, Little Re braves her first solo in 1953, in her father’s, CL Franklin, church.

Episode 2: Until The Real Thing Comes Along

Premieres Monday, Mar 22 at 10 am with a primetime repeat at 10 pm 

Struggling to find her sound, Aretha catches the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1966. Meanwhile, Little Re has her first touring experience on the Gospel Circuit in 1954 with CL Franklin and meets her idol, Clara Ward.

Episode 3: Do Right Woman

Premieres Tuesday, Mar 23 at 9 am with a primetime repeat at 9 pm 

Aretha juggles her music career and her commitment to the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr, in 1967 and 1968. Meanwhile, Little Re leaves behind her newborn child to return to the Gospel Circuit in 1955, meeting with music legends James Cleveland and Little Sammie Bryant.

Episode 4: Unforgettable

Premieres Tuesday, Mar 23 at 10 am with a primetime repeat at 10 pm 

Aretha is featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1968, but she is devastated when the article focuses on the scandalous details of her personal life. Barbara Franklin and Young CL Franklin struggle to establish themselves in Memphis in 1941, before Little Re is born.

Episode 5: Young, Gifted, and Black

Premieres Wednesday, Mar 24 at 9 am with a primetime repeat at 9 pm 

Aretha, inspired by Angela Davis and the Soledad Brothers, records her protest album “Young, Gifted and Black” in 1970. Despite Jerry Wexler’s uncertainty, the album is a success. Barbara Franklin makes a decision that has a devastating effect on Little Re in 1951.

Episode 6: Amazing Grace

Premieres Wednesday, Mar 24 at 10 am with a primetime repeat at 10 pm 

Aretha records her best-selling live Gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, ignoring her sibling’s pleas to record instead at New Bethel with their father, CL Franklin. Little Re discovers that she is pregnant with her second child, forcing her to leave school. While pregnant, she records her first album at New Bethel in 1956.

Episode 7: Chain of Fools

Premieres Thursday, Mar 25 at 9 am with a primetime repeat at 9 pm 

As the Queen of Soul enters the age of disco, Aretha will do anything to remain relevant—including stealing an opportunity from her sister Carolyn. She receives a GRAMMY nomination but is ultimately snubbed from winning the award. While at the ceremony, she meets with Arista founder Clive Davis. Meanwhile, Jerry Wexler leaves Atlantic Records, and he and Aretha part ways.

Episode 8: No One Sleeps

Premieres Thursday, Mar 25 at 10 am with a primetime repeat at 10 pm 

Despite significant emotional losses, including a second divorce and the death of her father in 1984, Aretha pushes herself artistically and triumphs. She begins a successful career at Arista, with the help of Clive Davis, and in an unforgettable GRAMMY performance in 1998, she solidifies her eternal reign as the Queen of Soul.


Produced under 20th Television and Imagine Entertainment, the series features many of her hit songs. Partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this season, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard remained the executive producers. Aside from that, the series features well-known personalities who crossed paths with Franklin. This includes Dinah Washington, King Curtis, Clara Ward, Art Tatum, Reverend James Cleveland, Sydney Pollack, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, Curtis Mayfield, and George Michael.

Pulitzer Prize recipient, MacArthur “Genius” grant receiver, and Tony Award winner Suzan-Lori Parks serves as the showrunner, executive producer, and lead writer. Golden Globe and BAFTA TV Award Winner Anthony Hemingway, on the other hand, serves as director and executive producer. Meanwhile, legendary hit-record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman are executive producers. Imagine’s Anna Culp also serves as executive producer. Aside from that, Peter Afterman comes as the producer.

Watch the trailer here.

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