Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), professionally known simply as Aaliyah, was an African American R&B singer and dancer. Notable for recording several hit records, including three #1 R&B hits ("Back and Forth", "If Your Girl Only Knew", and "Miss You") and one #1 pop hit ("Try Again"), Aaliyah also collaborated with record producers and songwriters R. Kelly, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Static during her career, and also modelled for Tommy Hilfiger and acted in two motion pictures. In 2001, Aaliyah's career was cut tragically short when she died in a plane crash at the age of 22.
Life and career
Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Aaliyah signed with her uncle Barry Hankerson's Blackground label in 1993 and released her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, in 1994. The album eventually reached platinum status and featured the successful singles "Back and Forth", "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)," a cover of the 1976 Isley Brothers single.
It was briefly rumored that in 1994, when she was 15, she was married to R&B singer/songwriter R. Kelly, the producer of Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. VIBE magazine in 1995 published a copy of their marriage certificate and claimed Aaliyah had falsified her age as 18 so she and Kelly could be married. Both parties had the marriage quickly annulled when the press found out about the union. R. Kelly did not work on any of Aaliyah's future recordings.
One in a Million (1996)
One in a Million, Aaliyah's second album, was chiefly written and produced by then unknowns Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and Tim "Timbaland" Mosley and released in late 1996. The album eventually went double platinum, making Aaliyah a major R&B star and igniting the successful careers of Elliott and Timbaland. One in a Million featured the international smash hit "If Your Girl Only Knew," the platinum single "One in a Million," and the gold single "The One I Gave My Heart To," a ballad written by Diane Warren. Other singles from the album included "4 Page Letter" and "Hot like Fire". She began to model for Tommy Hilfiger and appeared in several commercials. During this period, Aaliyah would also make guest appearances on albums by artists such as Missy Elliott, Timbaland & Magoo, Ginuwine and Playa, and Elliott, Timbaland and Playa's frontman Steve "Static" Garrett would remain Aaliyah's principal collaborators for the duration of her career.
Movie roles and soundtracks
In 1997, Aaliyah appeared on the soundtrack album for the 1997 Fox Animation Studios animated feature Anastasia, singing the pop version of "Journey to the Past". The song was nominated for an Academy Award, and Aaliyah performed the song at the 1997 Academy Awards ceremony, becoming the first and youngest African-American female recording artist to perform at the yearly ceremony.
Aaliyah had a huge hit in 1998 with "Are You that Somebody," the main single from the Doctor Doolittle soundtrack. Its video was the third most played on MTV that year, and the song's success began to make Aaliyah a household name.
In 2000, she co-starred with Jet Li in the martial-arts film Romeo Must Die. The film was notable for its mainstream success when featuring Asian and African American characters in the lead roles with few white Americans in the cast. Aaliyah contributed four songs to the film's soundtrack album, including "Back in One Piece," a duet with DMX (who has a minor role in Romeo Must Die), and the international smash "Try Again." "Try Again" was the first song ever to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 based solely on the strength of its radio airplay, without any single sales factored (a 12" maxi single was released for consumer purchase, but only after the song had peaked).
In 2002, she was showcased in her final role as Akasha in the film adaptation of the Anne Rice novel The Queen of the Damned.
"We Need a Resolution," the first single from Aaliyah's self-titled, double-platinum third album, was released in spring of 2001. The album was a critical success, and the video for "We Need a Resolution" received heavy MTV2 play. Most of Aaliyah was recorded in Australia, as the singer was filming scenes for Queen of the Damned, released by Warner Bros. in 2002.
In the summer of 2001, Aaliyah filmed the video for Aaliyah's intended second single, "More than a Woman". After the video was completed, however, it was decided "Rock the Boat" should be the second single instead, and the "More than a Woman" video was temporarily shelved.
"Rock The Boat" video shoot
Aaliyah traveled to the Bahamas in August 2001 to film the "Rock the Boat" video with director Hype Williams. After shooting wrapped, Aaliyah and her entourage boarded a small airplane, which was to take them to Miami, Florida. The plane took off but quickly descended and crashed in the forest. All nine people aboard, including Aaliyah, the pilot and the other seven passengers, were killed in the crash. Some died immediately; some later, in the hospital. Investigators determined the plane was overloaded by several hundred pounds, and an autopsy revealed cocaine and alcohol in the pilot's blood. Reports have also suggested the pilot of the plane falsely obtained his licence from Black Hawk Airways by showing hundreds of hours never flown, which suggests he was not qualified to pilot the plane in the first place.
Aaliyah's death affected her family, friends, fans and the entertainment industry as a whole. At the time of her death, Aaliyah has been dating Roc-a-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash, who grieved publicly over her passing. Friends such as Missy Elliott and Timbaland praised Aaliyah as an inspirational and talented individual. "Rock the Boat" went on to become a posthumous hit on radio and video channels, and the news of Aaliyah's death gave her album a notable sales boost, pushing it to #1 on The Billboard 200. The album's two subsequent singles, "More than A Woman" and "I Care 4 U," were also hits, the latter attaining success even without the promotional push of a music video.
In 2002, a posthumous greatest hits collection, I Care 4 You, was released in Aaliyah's name. In addition to well-known hits, it also included six previously unreleased songs from the Blackground vaults Aaliyah had recorded over the course of her career, including "Miss You," which became the album's lead single. Its video features Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Toni Braxton and DMX, among others, paying tribute to Aaliyah.
Aaliyah was to have had a supporting role as the wife of Harold Perrineau Jr.'s character in the two sequels to The Matrix; her role was ultimately filled by Nona Gaye. Other films in which Aaliyah was signed to star in were Honey (which instead was filmed with Jessica Alba as the star), and a Whitney Houston-produced remake of the 1976 film Sparkle. In addition, Aaliyah and one of her agents had pitched and inked a deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures for her to star in a film based upon a true story that was based about interracial love.
Aaliyah is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York.
Aaliyah and former Beatle George Harrison made UK Chart History in January 2002 when they scored the first, and to this date only, back-to-back posthumous number one hits. Aaliyah's "More than a Woman", released on January 7 and topped the chart on January 13, was followed by Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", re-released on January 14 and topped the chart on January 20.