Raphael Saadiq, Terence Blanchard to Oversee Music for ‘Genius: Aretha’

Raphael Saadiq and Terence Blanchard (Credit: Shutterstock/National Geographic)

National Geographic has enlisted two award-winning musicians to oversee the music for its upcoming limited series on Aretha Franklin.

The announcement came Wednesday that Raphael Saadiq has signed on as executive music producer for Genius: Aretha. Terence Blanchard, the Grammy-winning jazz artist behind the music for BlacKkKlansman and longtime Spike Lee collaborator, will compose original music for the series.

“I’m so humbled to be a part of a project that honors someone I’ve idolized and had the great privilege of working with,” Blanchard said in a statement. “Aretha was one of a kind talent that transcended all musical genres. She is the gold standard.”

Added Saadiq: “We’ll hit the keys, play the parts and sing the lyrics that helped pave the way for musicians like myself to trust our artistry and challenge ourselves to be bold.”

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Cynthia Erivo in "Genius: Aretha" (Courtesy: National Geographic/Richard DuCree)
Cynthia Erivo stars in the series (Courtesy: National Geographic/Richard DuCree)

Saadiq won a Grammy Award with Erykah Badu and Common for co-writing the 2002 single “Love Of My Life – An Ode To Hip Hop” from the Brown Sugar soundtrack.

Fans may also remember him from his time as lead singer of Tony! Toni! Toné! with hits such as “Feels Good” and “It Never Rains (in Southern California).”

He later became a founding member of Lucy Pearl; co-wrote the career-defining hit for D’Angelo “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”; and received an Oscar nomination for his songwriting collaboration with Mary J. Blige on Mudbound.

Genius: Aretha stars Cynthia Erivo in the lead role; Courtney B. Vance as C.L. Franklin; David Cross as Jerry Wexler; Malcolm Barrett as Ted White; Patrice Covington as Erma Franklin; Kimberly Hébert Gregory as Ruth Bowen; Rebecca Naomi Jones as Carolyn Franklin; and Sanai Victoria as Little Re.

As previously reported, Anthony Hemingway will serve as executive producer and director of the eight-part series. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks is showrunner. She’ll also executive produce alongside Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, music mogul Clive Davis, Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman, and Ken Biller of Fox 21 Television Studios and Imagine Television Studios.

Genius: Aretha will premiere over four consecutive nights, beginning Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, at 9/8c on National Geographic.