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Genius: Aretha is the third season of National Geographic's Genius. It aired between March 21, and March 24, 2021.


The third season of GENIUS explores 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.

Cast and Characters



  • Tina Fears as Clara Ward
  • Marque Richardson as King Curtis
  • Braelyn Edwards as Clarence Franklin
  • Tyler Richardson as Edward Franklin
  • Omar J. Dorsey as James Cleveland
  • Jerren Jackson as Teddy White Jr.
  • Willie Repoley as Tom Dowd
  • Luke James as Glynn Turman
  • Christopher Redman as Clive Davis
  • Major Finley as Curtis Mayfield


Title Director Writer Air Date Number
Aretha: Respect Anthony Hemingway Suzan-Lori Parks March 21, 2021 3x01
Aretha travels to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records; after losing her surrogate mother, Little Re braves her first solo in 1953 in her father's church.
Aretha: Until The Real Thing Comes Along Neema Barnette Suzan-Lori Parks & Diana Son March 21, 2021 3x02
Aretha catches the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1966; Little Re has her first touring experience on the Gospel Circuit in 1954 with C.L. Franklin and meets her idol, Clara Ward.
Aretha: Do Right Woman Neema Barnette Nathan Louis Jackson, Suzan-Lori Parks, & Diana Son March 22, 2021 3x03
Aretha juggles her music career and her commitment to the civil rights movement; 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.
Aretha: Unforgettable Bille Woodruff Suzan-Lori Parks & Gwendolyn M. Parker March 22, 2021 3x04
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.
Aretha: Young, Gifted and Black Anthony Hemingway Suzan-Lori Parks March 23, 2021 3x05
Aretha 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.
Aretha: Amazing Grace Anthony Hemingway Becky Mode March 23, 2021 3x06
Aretha records her bestselling live gospel album "Amazing Grace" in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church; Little Re discovers that she's pregnant with her second child, forcing her to leave school.
Aretha: Chain of Fools Anthony Hemingway Suzan-Lori Parks March 24, 2021 3x07
Aretha steals an opportunity from her sister Carolyn; she receives a Grammy nomination but is ultimately snubbed from winning the award; she meets with Arista founder Clive Davis; Jerry Wexler leaves Atlantic Records, and he and Aretha part ways.
Aretha: No One Sleeps Anthony Hemingway Suzn-Lori Parks March 24, 2021 3x08
Despite significant emotional losses, Aretha pushes herself artistically and triumphs; she begins a career at Arista with the help of Clive Davis, and in a Grammy performance in 1998, she solidifies her eternal reign as the Queen of Soul.