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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Genius: Aretha

Streaming on National Geographic / Music / Film & TV

Having produced series on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, National Geographic has focused its latest “Genius” anthology on Aretha Franklin, who died in 2018. Cast as the Queen of Soul, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, The Outsider) does all her own vocals, charting Franklin’s road from gospel star to soul diva. The singer’s tumultuous personal life is brought to the fore by Courtney B. Vance, who plays her womanizing and jealous father, and a complicated family life followed Franklin into adulthood, where she also dealt with racism and misogyny. Executive-produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and created by Suzan Lori-Parks (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), the series is one of two major Aretha projects this year, with a film starring Jennifer Hudson set to premiere in August. —J.V.

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