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‘Genius: Aretha’ coming to Disney+ in June

The music icon’s life is the focus of the series.

Genius: Aretha
Credit: National Geographic

‘Genius: Aretha’, the award-winning anthology series, will premiere in the UK on Friday 4th June 2021 on Disney+.

Starring Cynthia Erivo (‘Harriet’) as music legend Aretha Franklin, ‘Genius: Aretha’ will explore Aretha Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. Franklin was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion and widely considered the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honours throughout her career. 

Without knowing how to read music, Franklin taught herself to play the piano; at the young age of 12, she began to record songs and sing on gospel tours with her father. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records. In 1966, she moved to Atlantic Records, where she recorded many of her most iconic songs. In 1979, she began a 40-year friendship and partnership with Clive Davis, which produced a number of hit songs, including the highest charting and bestselling song of her career, ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),’ a duet with George Michael.

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. Her voice was identified as a “natural resource” by her home state of Michigan.

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The cast includes Courtney B Vance (‘The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’) as Aretha’s father, CL Franklin; Malcolm Barrett (‘Timeless,’) as Ted White, Franklin’s first husband and business manager; David Cross (‘Mr. Show,’) as legendary music producer Jerry Wexler, who guided Franklin as she developed into a confident singer and commercial success; Patrice Covington (‘The Color Purple’) and Rebecca Naomi Jones (‘Oklahoma!’) portray Erma and Carolyn Franklin, respectively, as Aretha’s sisters and frequent background singers, who supported and collaborated with their famous sibling; Steven Norfleet (‘Watchmen’) as older brother Cecil Franklin, who stepped in as Aretha’s manager following her divorce from Ted White; veteran actress Pauletta Washington (‘Beloved’) as Aretha’s nurturing and loving paternal grandmother, Rachel; Omar J. Dorsey (‘Queen Sugar’) as James Cleveland; Marque Richardson (‘Dear White People’) as King Curtis, Kimberly Hébert Gregory (‘Vice Principals’) as Ruth Bowen; and introducing Shaian Jordan as young Aretha Franklin, aka Little Re.

The series features many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from the comprehensive Warner Music catalogue, including ‘I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),’ ‘Chain of Fools,’ ‘Don’t Play That Song’ and ‘Save Me.’ The series also features Franklin’s performances of ‘I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,’ ‘Freeway of Love’ and ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.’


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