'Genius: Aretha' details how Franklin rose to become the Queen of Soul

The life of the late, great Aretha Franklin is featured in the latest installment of the Nat Geo limited series, "Genius."

Cynthia Erivo takes on the role of the singer known as The Queen of Soul.

"Genius: Aretha" takes us inside her life and shows what it took for her to become one of the best-selling musical artists of all time.

It explores her world, from gospel singer to superstar, with stories of her life involving family, civil rights and other struggles she faced on a journey full of determination.

"To know of the things that she was able to walk through to get to where she was just made me an even bigger fan," said Erivo. "I don't know that you can do anything like this without love to be honest."

The men in Aretha's life play a part in this as well. There's her first husband and business manager, Ted White; her music producer, Jerry Wexler; and her father, preacher C.L. Franklin, played by Courtney B. Vance.

"They needed each other," said Vance. "They depended on each other. She couldn't do it without him. He couldn't do it without her. They loved each other. They hated each other. There would be no Aretha Franklin without C.L. Franklin. And that's a good thing and a not-so-good thing."

"Her childhood was extremely difficult. Her father was not a very good person and she persevered through a lot of that," said David Cross.

"I think you'll learn that Aretha's life was more varied that we ever expected and as well as her talent and she went through a lot to bring you the icon that she is today," said Malcolm Barrett.

At one point in the limited series, Aretha Franklin says, "My singing voice has always been my guardian angel. Keeps me safe."

Writer Suzan-Lori Parks said we can't all sing like Franklin but she can offer inspiration.

"The beautiful spark that she has in her can hopefully help us see, 'Oh, I have a beautiful spark in me, too,'" said Parks.

"Genius: Aretha" debuted Sunday night on Nat Geo. It's available for viewing on Hulu.
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