Genius: Aretha

© National Geographic
Genius: Aretha

Synopsis

Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Topdog/Underdog," is executive producer and showrunner for this upcoming season of the first-ever, definitive scripted miniseries on the life of Aretha Franklin, the universally acclaimed "Queen of Soul." Starring Grammy-, Tony- and Emmy Award-winning and double-Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo as Aretha and Emmy- and Tony Award-winning Courtney B. Vance as C.L. Franklin, the anthology series will explore Aretha's musical genius, incomparable career, and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had around the world. The legendary singer is one of the world's bestselling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career.

Episodes

  • Respect

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    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 father C.L. Franklin’s church.

  • Until the Real Thing Comes Along

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    Struggling to find her sound, Aretha catches the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1964. Meanwhile, Little Re has her first touring experience on the gospel circuit in 1954 with her father, C.L. Franklin, and meets her idol, Clara Ward

  • Do Right Woman

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    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.

  • Unforgettable

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

  • Young, Gifted and Black

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    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.

  • Amazing Grace

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    Aretha records her bestselling live gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, ignoring her siblings’ pleas to record instead at New Bethel with their father, C.L. Franklin. Little Re discovers that she’s pregnant with her second child, forcing her to leave school. While pregnant, she records her first album at New Bethel in 1956.

  • Chain of Fools

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    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.

  • No One Sleeps

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    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.

specials