I have learned that music mogul and longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis is expected to join the Imagine TV/Fox 21 TV Studios project as executive producer.
The idea of doing a Franklin-centered Genius came together quickly following the music icon’s August 16 death, spearheaded by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. The project had been moving full steam ahead since, with securing access to Franklin’s music considered the one key element that would clinch a green light. Bringing David on board is considered very important in that aspect.
Davis, currently chief creative officer for Sony Music Entertainment, worked with Franklin for decades. He spoke at the singer’s funeral and has been organizing a big Aretha Franklin tribute concert.
Genius was renewed for a third season in April, with author Mary Shelley revealed as its subject, to follow Albert Einstein and Picasso. That installment remains in development.
Grazer is executive producing Genius with Ron Howard and Francie Calfo of Imagine TV. Others who have served as executive producers on the anthology include Ken Biller as well as Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane of MWM Studios and Sam Sokolow and Jeff Cooney of EUE/Sokolow.
Franklin has the outsized talent and remarkable story that make her tailor-made for a Genius treatment. The daughter of a Baptist minister and an accomplished piano player and singer, Franklin was a musical prodigy, learning how to play the piano by ear at a very young age. As a child, she went through the dissolution of her parents’ marriage and her mother’s death. By the age of 10, Franklin already was performing at her father’s church in Detroit, rubbing shoulders with a slew of visiting celebrities such as Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. Franklin would later tour with King and ultimately sing at his funeral in 1968.
Franklin, a Kennedy Center Honoree, delivered memorable performances for Queen Elizabeth at Royal Albert Hall in London and at the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.Franklin was a music superstar whose career spanned more than half a century. She was a trailblazer. Her blending of gospel, pop, standards, R&B and blues all but defined what would become known as soul. She was one of the most honored artists in Grammy history, winning 18 Grammy awards, and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. More than 100 of her songs made the Billboard charts, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, “Chain of Fools”, “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone”, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”, and “Day Dreaming”.