Who was Aaliyah?
Aaliyah was an American singer, best known for her debut album ‘Age Ain't Nothing but a Number’ which sold three million copies in the United States. Her second album was also a resounding success and she soon became one of the hottest youth icons of the 1990s. She had inherited her singing talent from her vocalist mother and was interested in music from an early age. Recording artist Gladys Maria Knight was her close relative and played a major role in introducing young Aaliyah to the show business. She traveled often with Gladys and began auditioning for commercials and television programs. She got lucky and signed a deal with ‘Jive Records’ and was also signed by her Uncle Barry Hankerson's ‘Blackground Records’ at the age of 12. Her debut album, which was recorded when she was just 14, proved to be a sensational hit and is said to have defined R&B in the 1990s. A successful singing career followed and she soon ventured into films as well, making her debut as an actress in ‘Romeo Must Die,’ starring opposite martial artist Jet Li. She also served as an executive producer of the film's soundtrack, where she contributed four songs. The rising star met an abrupt end when she died aged 22 in an aircraft crash in 2001.
Childhood & Early Life
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York, to Diane and Michael Haughton. She had one brother whom she was very close to. She was very family oriented and had close relations with her parents and grandmother.She was of African-American descent.
Her mother was a vocalist and young Aaliyah began singing when she was a child, performing at weddings,charity events, and for church choir. Her uncle Barry Hankerson was married to recording artist Gladys Knight who played a major role in introducing Aaliyah to the show business.
She attended a Catholic school named‘Gesu Elementary,’ where she was cast to play a role in a stage play titled‘Annie.’
With support from Gladys, Aaliyah auditioned for commercials and television programs, and also for several record labels. She started appearing in concerts alongside Gladys when she was 11.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Aaliyah signed with ‘Jive Records’ and her Uncle Barry Hankerson's ‘Blackground Records’ when she was just 12. Her debut album‘Age Ain't Nothing but a Number,’ which was recorded when the singer was just 14, was released in 1994.
In its very first week, the album sold almost 74, 000 copies. Soon, it reached from 24th to the 18th position in ‘Billboard 200,’ eventually selling over three million copies in the United States, where it was certified double platinum by the ‘RIAA.’
The tremendous success of the album catapulted Aaliyah to international stardom. During this time, rumors of her illegal marriage with her mentor and recording artist and producer R. Kelly began circulating.
In order to silence the rumors, Aaliyah left ‘Jive Records’ and signed a contract with ‘Atlantic Records,’ under which she released her second album ‘One in a Million’ in 1996. This album was also a major success. It peaked at No. 18 on the ‘Billboard 200,’ and sold over 3.7 million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. It was certified double platinum by the ‘RIAA.’
During this time, she attended the ‘Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts,’ where she majored in drama and graduated in 1997. Following her graduation, she began her acting career with the television series ‘New York Undercover.’
In 1997, she contributed to the soundtrack ofthe animated feature ‘Anastasia,’ performing a cover version of ‘Journey to the Past.’ She then performed the song at the 1998 ‘Academy Awards,’becoming the youngest singer to perform at the event. The song ‘Are You That Somebody?’ featured on the ‘Dr. Dolittle’ soundtrack and earned Aaliyah her first ‘Grammy Award’ nomination.
In 1999, she was selected to play her first film role in the action movie ‘Romeo Must Die,’ where she starred opposite martial arts star Jet Li. The film, released in 2000, was a huge commercial hit. Along with acting, she also served as the executive producer of the movie's soundtrack and performed the hit single ‘Try Again’ among others.
Her third album ‘Aaliyah,’ which released in July 2001, reached No. 2 on the ‘Billboard’ album chart. The album sold more than 190, 000 copies in the first week itself. Within five weeks it was certified gold and later double platinum by ‘RIAA.’
Her singles‘More than a Woman’ and ‘I Care 4 U’ were released posthumously and reached the top 25 of the ‘Billboard Hot 100.’
Continue Reading Below
Aaliyah’s debut album ‘Age Ain't Nothing but a Number’ spawned the hit singles, ‘Back & Forth’ and ‘At Your Best (You Are Love),’ both of which were certified gold by the ‘RIAA.’ The album went on to sell over six million copies worldwide.
Awards & Achievements
At the ‘American Music Awards’in 2002, Aaliyah won two posthumous awards: ‘Favorite Female R&B Artist’ and ‘Favorite R&B/Soul Album.’
In 2003,she was named as one of the ‘Top 40 Women of the Video Era’ in VH1’s series‘The Greatest.’
Aaliyah was ranked No.70 in ‘Billboard’ magazine’s ‘Top Artists of the Decade,’ while her eponymous album claimedthe 181st spot in the magazine's‘Top200 Albums of the Decade’ in December 2009.
‘Billboard’ has listed Aaliyah as the 10th most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and 27th most successful R&B artist overall.
Personal Life & Legacy
It was once rumored that Aaliyah had wed R. Kelly in an illegal marriage that was later annulled. The pair, however, denied the rumors. She was dating Damon Dash, co-founder of ‘Roc-A-Fella Records,’ at the time of her death.
Aaliyah, along with her crew, flew to the Bahamas on August 25, 2001, to shoot the music video of the song, ‘Rock the Boat.’ Completing the shoot early, the crew decided to return to Florida instead of waiting for the next day as per schedule. For their return, they boarded a small private airplane.
The plane was smaller than the one the crew had arrived in.However, the whole party and the equipment were accommodated on board, overloading the plane with a surplus of 320 kg and one excess passenger. The plane crashed soon after taking off, killing everyone on board.
Aaliyah's funeral services were held on August 31, 2001, at the ‘Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel’ and ‘St. Ignatius Loyola Church’ in Manhattan.
Credited with redefining R&B and hip hop in the 1990s, Aaliyah was paid tribute at the 2001 ‘MTV Video Music Awards.’