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Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), best known as Aaliyah, was an American singer, dancer, model and actress. Introduced to audiences by R&B singer R. Kelly, Aaliyah became famous during the mid-1990s with several hit records from the songwriting/production team of Missy Elliott & Timbaland and their associate Steve "Static" Garrett. Aaliyah soon joined Timbaland's R&B and hip hop collective, the Superfriends Clique.

She is notable for recording several hit records, including several number one R&B hits, a number one pop hit, and nine top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. She also modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and starred in two motion pictures before being killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas.

Early years

Aaliyah was born in Bedford Brooklyn, New York, on January 16, 1979 to Michael and Diane Haughton, and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. Her name means "Highest, Most Exalted, The Best" in Arabic. Aaliyah was brought up as a Christian with her older brother Rashad Haughton. Her grandmother, Mintis L. Hicks Hankerson, was of African American and Native American descent. Diane Haughton, Aaliyah's mother, also a vocalist, encouraged her daughter's career. Her uncle, Barry Hankerson, is a prominent individual in the music industry and Aaliyah's aunt is Gladys Knight, a legendary soul singer with Gladys Knight & the Pips.

She appeared on the TV talent show Star Search at age ten, singing her mother's favorite song, "My Funny Valentine". Although she did not win, Aaliyah worked with an agent in New York and began to attend auditions for TV shows, including Family Matters.

Following her appearance on Star Search Aaliyah performed on stage in Las Vegas with Gladys Knight. In her early teens, Aaliyah attended the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, and graduated as a dance major with a 4.0 GPA


Age Ain't Nothing But a Number

Aaliyah signed with her uncle Barry Hankerson's Blackground Records label in 1993 at the age of 14. She released her debut album, titled Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, in 1994 at the age of 15. R. Kelly, was a leading songwriter and producer on her debut album. The album displayed her smooth and velvety vocals and the production work was said to be original and innovative. The album went platinum within months. The album featured the gold-selling singles "Back and Forth", "At Your Best," "Down With The Clique," and the album-title single "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number."

One in a Million

One In A Million, Aaliyah's sophomore album, was chiefly written and produced by then unknowns Missy Elliot and Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley. One in a Million was released on August 27, 1996 when Aaliyah was 17 years of age. The album became a landmark in Aaliyah's career, garnering her mass critical acclaim. The album was certified double-platinum within a year, making Aaliyah a major R&B star and igniting the successful careers of Missy Elliott and Timbaland. One in a Million featured the international smash hits; "If Your Girl Only Knew", "One In A Million", "The One I Gave My Heart To", "4 Page Letter", "Hot Like Fire", and "Got To Give It Up". After the success of One in a Million, in 1997 Aaliyah headlined in her own tour "The Hot Like Fire Tour", in which she toured various major city venues performing hits from her albums.

To date, One in a Million has sold over 3.7 million copies in the U.S. and over 11 million worldwide.


"We Need a Resolution," the first single from Aaliyah's third studio album, was released April 24, 2001 (see 2001 in music). The self-titled Aaliyah was released three months later on July 17, 2001. The album was an instant critical success. Aaliyah introduced a darker and edgier side to Aaliyah's music and was noted as having showcased her growth as an artist. Around the time of the album's recording and release she had been filming Queen of the Damned, which helped her show a dark and edgy side as her character was a deadly villain. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 190,000 copies in its first week, and was certified gold (500,000 copies sold) within four weeks. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails was to produce a song on the album but scheduling conflicts did not permit the collaboration.

"More Than A Woman" and "Rock The Boat"

There was no shortage of confusion at the label regarding the next single from the Aaliyah album. Aaliyah had been promoting "More Than a Woman", having performed it twice and shooting a video with director Dave Meyers in the summer of 2001. According to Blackground, a remix featuring State Property and Jay-Z was also planned, but was scrapped due to lack of adequate funds. The video was to be released but "Rock the Boat" began receiving huge amounts of radio-play, so she was immediately sent to the Bahamas to shoot the video. The "Rock The Boat" music video was put in the 106 and Park hall of fame, making the countdown over 65 times and landed in second place on BET's Top 100 videos of 2001. The album went on to sell over 8 million copies worldwide.

I Care 4 U

I Care 4 U was released on December 10, 2002. Along with her hit singles, a number of previously unreleased tracks were included on the album, including "Erica Kane", "Don't Worry" and "All I Need" and the new singles "Miss You", "Don't Know What to Tell Ya", and "Come Over." I Care 4 U debuted at an impressive #3 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the R&B album charts (where it remained for 7 weeks). The album went on to sell over 2.6 million in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide.

The video for "Miss You" features Missy Elliott, Toni Braxton, Lil' Kim, Dallas Austin, MTV presenter and close friend Ananda Lewis, actor/singer Jamie Foxx, AJ Calloway, Free, Quddus, Missy's recent protegé and longtime friend Tweet, U-God (of the Wu-Tang Clan) and DMX, Rosario Dawson, among others, paying tribute to Aaliyah. Following her death, her single "Miss You" made it to #1 on the US R&B Charts. The album earned Aaliyah a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)

Shortly after, the "Greatest Hits : Special Fan Box" was released. It featured re-packaged versions of the albums "One In A Million", "Aaliyah" and "I Care 4 U". It also featured a DVD containing all of Aaliyah's music videos.

Aaliyah also had a Symbol she'd go by /. and was also printed on her last album Aaliyah in 2001

Guest appearances, movie roles and soundtracks

In 1995 at age 16, Aaliyah performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" live at an Orlando Magic basketball game. Also during that year, she appeared in the movie and on the soundtrack for A Low Down Dirty Shame with the minor international hit "The Thing I Like" (#33 UK). The song was also included on international versions of Age Ain't Nothing But A Number.

In 1997, Aaliyah appeared on the soundtrack album for the 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 1998 Academy Awards ceremony, becoming the first youngest female recording artist to perform at the ceremony. Not only was Aaliyah the youngest female to perform but she was the youngest and first African American to have the nominee for Best Original Song.

Aaliyah had a hit in 1998 with "Are You that Somebody" (number one airplay U.S. eight weeks), the main single from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. Its video was the third most-played on MTV that year, and the song's success helped make Aaliyah a household name and sent her to the throne as Queen of Urban Pop.

In 2000, she co-starred with Jet Li in the martial arts film Romeo Must Die, which debuted at number one at the box office. Aaliyah and Timbaland executive produced the film's soundtrack album and Aaliyah contributed four songs: "Are You Feelin' Me?," "I Don't Wanna," "Come Back in One Piece," a duet with DMX, and the international number one hit "Try Again." Aaliyah made history once more when "Try Again" became the first song to ever reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 based solely on the strength of its radio airplay, without any single sales factored in. After the huge success of "Try Again" at radio, a 12" maxi single was released for consumer purchase. The radio-only single, "I Don't Wanna", (which was also featured on the soundtracks for the films Next Friday and Romeo Must Die) peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart.

In 2001, Aaliyah went to Australia to co-star with Stuart Townsend in the film Queen of the Damned, an adaptation of the Anne Rice novel of the same name. Aaliyah also recorded most of her third studio album, Aaliyah, during this time.

In 2004, The Matrix was released to DVD, inside the special features and documentaries are Tributes and Footage of Aaliyah.

Aaliyah had a supporting role as Zee, the wife of Harold Perrineau Jr.'s character, Link, in the two sequels to The Matrix. The directors initially tried to find a way to incorporate her footage into the movies but decided against it due to lack of material available. The role was recast with Nona Gaye playing the character. Other films in which Aaliyah was signed to star in were Honey (which instead was filmed with Jessica Alba as the main character), and a Whitney Houston-produced remake of the 1976 film Sparkle (now in the works with Raven-Symoné as the main character). Aaliyah and one of her agents had also pitched and signed a deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures for her to star in a film based upon a true story about interracial love.


On August 25, 2001, at 6:49 pm (EST), just after wrapping up filming of the "Rock the Boat" video, Aaliyah and various members of her record company boarded a twin engine Cessna 402B (N8097W) at Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island, Bahamas to travel to Opa-locka Airport near Miami, Florida, but the plane crashed shortly after takeoff about 200 feet from the runway. Pilot Luis Morales III and all eight passengers, including Aaliyah, were killed in the aviation accident. According to findings from an inquest conducted by the coroner's office in the Bahamas, Aaliyah suffered from "severe burns and a blow to the head," in addition to severe shock. The coroner theorized that, even if Aaliyah had survived the crash, her recovery would have been virtually impossible given the severity of her injuries.

Aaliyah's eulogy was held on August 31 at Saint Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan, NYC.


NTSB reports indicate that the pilot, Luis Morales III, was not qualified to pilot the plane he was attempting to fly. Morales falsely obtained his FAA license by showing hundreds of hours never flown, and he may also have falsified how many hours he had flown in order to get a job with his employer, Blackhawk International Airways. Additionally, an autopsy performed on Morales revealed cocaine and alcohol in his blood.

Further investigations determined the plane was over its total gross weight by several hundred pounds. Although witnesses claimed that the passengers had been asked to leave some luggage behind, it was later discovered that the passengers, including Aaliyah, had not been informed of the excess weight.

Eddie Golson, president of Pro Freight Cargo Services at Opa-locka Airport, said workers carted "a pickup truck of freight" from the crash site Monday. "That's absurd to think that this pilot got in this airplane with eight other people and a truck full of freight and expected this thing to fly," Golson said. "What the hell was going on?" a baggage handler was reported to have said, in reaction to hearing that no one weighed the passengers or baggage. Two of the passengers, members of Aaliyah's entourage, weighed in the region of 300 pounds and sat in the rear of the plane, where the baggage was also stored.

The day of the aviation accident was Mr. Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways, a Part 135 single-pilot operation. He had been employed with Golden Airlines, from which he was fired only four hours before the fatal aviation accident. In addition, Luis Morales III was not registered with the FAA to fly for Blackhawk. As a result of the accident, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Aaliyah’s parents and was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Barry & Sons, Inc., a corporation formed in 1992 to develop, promote and capitalize on the musical talents of Aaliyah and to oversee the production and distribution of her records, tapes and music videos, brought an unsuccessful lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Instinct Productions LLC, (a company hired by Barry & Sons, Inc. in August, 2001 to produce the "Rock the Boat" music video). The case was dismissed since New York State's wrongful death statute only permits certain people to recover damages for wrongful death.


"Rock the Boat" went on to become a posthumous hit on radio (reaching number two on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles charts, number 14 on the Hot 100, and number 12 in the UK) and video channels, and the news of Aaliyah's death gave her album a notable sales boost, pushing it to number one on the Billboard 200. The album produced two other singles. "More than A Woman" reached number 7 on Billboard's Hot R&B singles chart, number 25 on Hot 100, and number one in the UK. "I Care 4 U" reached number three on Billboard's Hot R&B singles chart and number 16 on the Hot 100, the latter attaining success even without the promotional push of a music video. The Aaliyah album went on to sell over 3 million copies in the U.S. Queen of the Damned was released in early 2002. Before its release, Aaliyah's brother Rashad was called upon to re-dub several of his sister's lines during the post-production ADR process. Upon its release, the film debuted at number one. The film was also dedicated to her.

In 2001, Missy Elliott released her video for "Take Away". The video contained words and images about Aaliyah. The single also featured Ginuwine and was the debut of Elliott's recent protégé, Tweet.

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 (aside from the Elvis Presley re-releases in 2005). 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. Aaliyah was voted one of "The Top 40 Woman of the Video Era" in VH1's The Greatest, also ranked #36 on their list of the 100 Sexiest Artist. Aaliyah also made E!'s list on the 101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment, Juciest Hollywood Hookups, and Best Kept Hollywood Secrets. Aaliyah recently ranked at #18 on BET's "Top 25 Dancers of All Time" and ranked at #4 on BET's "Top 25 Sexiest Women of all Time". In 2005, former Co-Star Jet-Li as reported from CNN stated the memory of Aaliyah had haunted him in Vancouver, where he and the late songstress shot the film Romeo Must Die.

In addition Aaliyah has been the topic of five books: Aaliyah: More than a Woman (2001) by Christopher John Farley, Aaliyah: An R&B Princess in Words and Pictures (2002) by Kelly Kenyatta, Aaliyah by Tim Footman (2003), and Aaliyah Remembered: Her Life & The Person behind the Mystique (2005) by William Sutherland.

Another way Aaliyah's legacy will live on, is through The Aaliyah Memorial Fund. The money donated goes to charities Aaliyah supported. Aaliyah's Cancer Awareness Angels participate in a Revlon Run Walk in which Aaliyah herself once participated.



TotalPeak positions
USUS R&BUKNZUnited World ChartFRA
1994"Back and Forth"511618-23
1996"If Your Girl Only Knew"11115--67
"One in a Million"25115--28
1998"Are You That Somebody?"101111-20
2000"Try Again"1451342
2001"Rock The Boat"14212  1
2002"More Than a Woman"2571-371 
2003"Miss You"317-291
 Total number-one singles1511-3



  • Source Awards: Won Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Artist


  • Won two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video, Best Video from a Film ("Try Again")


  • Won two American Music Awards: Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album.
  • Won a Soul Train Award for R&B/Soul Single; Female ("Rock The Boat")
  • Won the Best R&B / Soul Single, Solo Award and R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards (for "Rock The Boat")
  • Won the MOBO Award for Best Music Video ("More Than a Woman")


  • Won Source Awards: Best Female R&B Artist I Care 4 U
  • Won an American Music Award : Best Female R&B Artist


  • A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994) - Herself
  • Romeo Must Die (2000) - Trish O'Day
  • Queen of the Damned (2002) - Akasha