Aaliyah Dana Haughton was a successful singer and actress with a thriving career. In 2001, she'd just released her third, self-titled album and was preparing for a role in The Matrix sequels when everything came to a screeching halt.
After shooting a music video in the Bahamas for her single "Rock the Boat," Aaliyah got on a plane and tragedy struck. According to RollingStone, "...she boarded a ten-seat twin-engine Cessna 402B bound for Opa-Locka, Florida, with the pilot, Luis Morales III, and seven members of her crew." Less than a minute after take off, the plane crashed (due to 700 pounds of excess weight) a few hundred feet from the runway and Aaliyah along with several others, died on impact. It was then that she joined the sad group of young stars gone too soon.
By 22, Aaliyah had achieved more success in her career than most singers twice her age. She made her music debut in 1994 at 15 as the protege of hitmaker R. Kelly. Her first album Age Aint Nothin' but a Number sold three million copies and solidified her presence as an urban artist. But it was her 1997 follow up that put her and her vocal stylings on the map.
Aaliyah teamed up with producers Missy Elliot and Timbaland to create her chart topping classic One in a Million. The album sold over eight million copies worldwide and produced hits such as "If Your Girl Only Knew" and "Hot like Fire." She used her new fame to parlay into acting with a lead role in Romeo Must Die opposite martial artist Jet-Li. The film was a cult success and featured a hit soundtrack led by the single "Try Again," which Aaliyah performed.
Queen of the Damned, Aaliyah's final film was released February 22, 2002 -- six months after her death. It marked the official end of her blossoming career. Unlike most twenty-somethings that populate the industry today, Aaliyah didn't depend on sex to sell. She had hypnotic beats, catchy lyrics and great dance moves that engaged audiences.
Parrish Johnson, an executive at her former record label Blackground, revealed, "She's the first artist I worked with who would not compromise her values to be famous. In this business, church girls become prostitutes because they want to be stars, but she would never let stardom interfere with who she was."
It's because of her conviction and originality that Aaliyah's memory and music continues to live on in our hearts.
Image courtesy of Eric Johnson
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