By Sydney Bucksbaum
March 25, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
National Geographic/Richard DuCree

Genius (TV series)

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It's time to sing both "Happy Birthday" and "Respect," because in honor of Aretha Franklin's birthday EW has an exclusive image from Nat Geo's Genius: Aretha!

The anthology series' third season stars Cynthia Erivo as the queen of soul, and in this exclusive sneak peek photo she's seen onstage at the Regal Theater in Chicago performing "Save Me" with her sisters Carolyn (Rebecca Naomi Jones) and Erma (Patrice Covington) supporting her for the first time as her back-up singers in 1967. While not pictured in the photo, King Curtis (Marque Richardson) leads the band in front of a crowd of adoring fans.

The scene teased in the above image is what kicks off Aretha's meteoric rise to fame on the series, which will be portrayed by a montage of her greatest hits climbing the charts and her image gracing magazine covers.

Franklin died in 2018 from advanced pancreatic cancer. She would have turned 78 on March 25.

Genius: Aretha will explore the legendary singer’s life and musical genius as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world.

In addition to Erivo, Jones, Covington, and Richardson, Genius: Aretha also stars Courtney B. Vance as her father, C.L. Franklin; David Cross as Jerry Wexler; Malcolm Barrett as Ted White; Pauletta Washington as Grandmother Rachel; Steven Norfleet as Cecil Franklin; Kimberly Hébert Gregory as Ruth Bowen; Omar J. Dorsey as James Cleveland; and introducing Shaian Jordan as Little Re.

And despite the coronavirus pandemic affecting many other productions, the eight-part series Genius: Aretha is still set to debut over four consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic.

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