Aaliyah

  • R&B/Hip Hop singer born Aaliyah Haughton in 1979 in Brooklyn New York. Died in 2001 from a plane crash.
  • Her family moved to Detroit when she was 5 years old. Her mother was a vocalist, and Aaliyah took vocal lessons when she was very young. She performed at weddings and church choir as a child, and was cast in musical theater in first grade. Aaliyah’s uncle was an entertainment lawyer and record label owner who had been married to Gladys Knight. This connection to the music industry got Aaliyah interested in pursuing a career in music. She traveled with Knight to audition for television programs, and at the age of 10, she appeared on Star Search. At 11, she performed with Knight at concerts – at this time, Aaliyah’s mother suggested that she perform only using her first name.
  • Her uncle secured a distribution deal with a national record label, and Aaliyah signed a recording contract when she was 12 years old. She was introduced to R&B artist R. Kelly, who became her mentor and producer for her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, released in 1994, when she was 15 years old. It reached #3 on the R&B album chart and was certified 2x platinum. The first single from the album, Back & Forth, topped the R&B singles chart and peaked at #5 on the Hot 100. Her follow-up single from the album, At Your Best (You Are Love), reached #2 and #6 respectively.
  • R. Kelly and Aaliyah secretly married when she was 15 years old (Kelly was 27 at the time). The marriage was illegal – the marriage certificate listed her age as 18. It was annulled 6 months later, and Aaliyah cut off all personal and professional ties with Kelly.
  • In 1996, Aaliyah released her second album, One In a Million. It was just as successful as her debut album – certified 2x platinum and peaking at #2 on the R&B album chart. It included her second #1 R&B hit, If Your Girl Only Knew. The following year, she was the featured artist on the rap song Up Jumps da Boogie by Timbaland & Magoo, which peaked at #1 on the Rap chart and #4 on the R&B chart.
  • In 1997, Aaliyah graduated from the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts with a 4.0 GPA. She began an acting career, appearing in the police drama New York Undercover. In 1999, she landed the starring role in the film Romeo Must Die. She also contributed 4 songs to the soundtrack for the film. Earlier, she recorded songs for 5 other film soundtracks. The song Are You That Somebody? for the film Dr. Doolittle topped the R&B chart, and it earned her her first of 5 Grammy nominations between 1998 and 2002. The song Try Again from Romeo Must Die became her only #1 song on the Hot 100 chart.
  • Her final album, the self titled Aaliyah, was her most successful album, released in 2001. It topped the Billboard 200 album chart and it sold 13 million copies world wide. A month after its release, she was killed in a plane crash – she was returning to Florida from the Bahamas, where she had been filming the video to the song Rock The Boat. The song was released as a single after her death, and it became the most successful track from the album, reaching #2 on the R&B chart.
  • Her final film, Queen of the Damned, was released in 2002 after her death. Also that year, a compilation album titled I Care 4 U was released. It included her hit singles as well as some previously unreleased music. The first single from the album, Miss You, topped the R&B chart and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. The title track I Care 4 U reached #3 on the R&B chart.
  • Aaliyah work in R&B and hip hop is one of the defining sounds of the late 90s. Certainly her status was still ascending when her untimely death occurred. Here is the video Rock The Boat, made only hours before her passing.

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