A Tragic Loss
On August 25, 2001, the R&B community was shocked by a plane crash that caused the death of bright and rising R&B star, Aaliyah. Aaliyah and seven other passengers were killed instantly with a ninth passenger passing away later at a Nassau hospital. It was a small twin-engine Cessna plane, which was bringing a team to film Aaliyah's video "Rock The Boat" to the Bahamas, that was involved in the disaster. The over-loaded plane crashed shortly after takeoff, exploding on impact.
It was obvious that the R&B community reacted with shock and sorrow. Aaliyah, with a voice often compared to Toni Braxton and Janet Jackson, was a talented singer. Eerie as it seems, just a month prior to the crash, Aaliyah told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, "It is dark in my favorite dream. Someone is following me. I don't know why. I'm scared. Then suddenly I lift off, far away. How do I feel? As if I am swimming in the air, free, weightless. Nobody can reach me. Nobody can touch me. It's a wonderful feeling."
Childhood and Family:
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Huntington, New York, to parents Michael Haughton and Diane Haughton. Her name means "the most exalted one" in Swahili. Diane her mother, who was also a singer, enrolled Aaliyah in voice lessons before she entered school. Her talent was recognized.
Aaliyah and her family moved to Detroit when Aaliyah was five. She sang in numerous school plays and auditioned for various TV projects including the TV show Star Search. She participated in a five-night singing engagement with Gladys Knight's group in Las Vegas when she was 11 years old. Gladys, who was the ex-wife of Aaliyah's uncle, Barry Hankerson, introduce Aaliyah to R&B's rising star and extraordinary producer, Robert Kelly.
Soon after Aaliyah became famous, news would surface that R. Kelly and Aaliyah had a relationship and they even married in 1994, but the marriage was voided because Aaliyah was a minor. She was just 15 at the time the marriage took place. Rumors hinted of a hushed abortion, but as the media buzz died down, the two parted personally and creatively.
Loving What You Do
Producer Robert Kelly took Aaliyah under his wing and began to write and produce songs for her. With his supervision and guest vocals, Aaliyah's first album, "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number," was released in the summer of 1994. The album went platinum with two smash singles, "Back & Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)," hitting pop's Top Ten and going gold. The single "Back & Forth" also topped the R&B charts with "At Your Best" close behind.
Aaliyah's next album, "One in a Million", was released in 1996. In this album Aaliyah showed such promising maturity that it raised her to the next level by industry standards. With her single, "If Your Girl Only Knew," Aaliyah ranked first on the R&B singles chart. The album, "One in a Million," was awarded double platinum just ten months after its release which instantly placed Aaliyah among superstars in the music industry.
After finishing high school in 1997, Aaliyah contributed several songs to film soundtracks. The song "Journey to the Past," from Anastasia, was nominated for an Oscar. Early 1998, she released a major hit with "Are You That Somebody?" from Eddie Murphy's Dr. Dolittle, in which she also made a cameo appearance.
While preparing for her third album, Aaliyah began her acting career with Romeo Must Die (2000) and her soundtrack single, "Try Again," which claimed the top spot on the pop charts that summer. Soon after Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah starred in the film Queen of the Damned.
Aaliyah was cast in two upcoming sequels to the blockbuster The Matrix and shortly after, her third album "Aaliyah" was released in summer 2001. The album received excellent reviews and the first single, "We Need a Resolution," hit the top 20 R&B charts.
A month after the release of the album, Aaliyah traveled to the Bahamas to film a video for the album's second single, "Rock the Boat." It was at this time the plane crash tragedy and her untimely death occurred. Her character in The Matrix sequels was replaced with actress Jada Pinkett Smith. "Rock the Boat" and "More Than a Woman" scaled to the top of the R&B charts. The movie, Queen of the Damned, gained success upon its release just months after Aaliyah's death, topping the box office in its first week.
By the end of 2002, the album "I Care 4 U," gained her more posthumous fame, ranking in at the charts as number three. The album showcased some of her greatest hits with a selection of unreleased material. The title track roamed within the top 20 pop charts and the single, "Miss You," went to the top of the R&B charts.
Aaliyah was well on her way to her super-stardom. Aaliyah once stated, "Everything is worth it. The hard work, the times when you're tired, the times where you're a bit sad. In the end, it's all worth it because it really makes me happy. There's nothing better than loving what you do."
- American Music Awards: Favorite Female Soul Artist, 2002
- American Music Awards: Best Soul Album, 2002
- MTV Video Music: Best Female Video, Try Again, 2000
- MTV Video Music: Best Video from a Film, Try Again, 2000
- Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards: Best R&B/Soul Single, Rock The Boat, 2002
- Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards: Best Solo, Rock The Boat, 2002
- Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards: R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year, Rock The Boat, 2002