In 1952, 10-year-old Aretha Franklin was woken by her father, a Baptist pastor, C.L. Franklin, to sing at a weekly birthday celebration attended by various African American luminaries, including Dinah Washington, Clara Ward, Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, and James Cleveland. Aretha sings and brings the residence down. While in church, Aretha’s elder sister, Erma Franklin, a talented singer in her own personal right, questions the preference their father indicates for Aretha in spite of Erma’s personal repute as the firstborn, before being soothed by their grandmother.
While journeying with her mom, Barbara, she is reminded that she should never fear a person and have to simply sing while she looks like singing, and communicate while she seems like speaking. Aretha recollects this message after being sexually assaulted at one of her father’s parties, and the following morning, refuses to mention why she feels upset. The surprising death of Aretha’s mother, in addition, traumatizes her, and as a result, Aretha is unwilling to talk. Frustrated, at some stage in her piano lesson with Cleveland, Reverend Franklin orders him to put her together to sing earlier than his sermon the next morning. Cleveland reminds her of her love for music and advises her to never permit anything to get between her and music.