Remembering Aaliyah Ten Years Later
A decade after the sudden death of multi-platinum-selling R&B singer Aaliyah, 22, fans still hum her hit singles like "Try Again," watch video footage of her laughing and dancing, and mourn a vibrant career cut tragically short.
Born Aaliyah Haughton in Brooklyn, she moved with her family to Detroit at age five. A natural-born performer, she was 11 when she opened for her aunt Gladys Knight in Las Vegas. After studying dance at a performing arts school in Detroit, Aaliyah went to work on an album produced by R. Kelly, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, which was released in 1994 when the singer was 14 and sold more than 1 million copies. Her second album One in a Million, released two years later, sold 2 million copies. It not only made Aaliyah a star, but propelled the careers of its producer-songwriter team, the then-unknown Timbaland and Missy Elliot.
A self-described perfectionist and a dedicated workaholic, Aaliyah, who was affectionately referred to as "Baby Girl," filled her schedule with the opportunities her newfound stardom afforded her. She modeled for Tommy Hilfiger, took lead roles in the 2000 Jet Li action flick Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned, and signed on for both of the sequels to The Matrix.
Aaliyah's third album, Aaliyah, had been released in July 2001 when she flew to the Bahamas to film the music video for its third single, "Rock the Boat." On August 25, she was on her way back to the United States when the twin-engine plane she was on crashed, killing her and eight others. Shocked fans crashed the servers on Aaliyah Web sites and aired their remembrances on radio stations across the country.
Those closest to Aaliyah remembered her for her sweet nature and her positive message — a departure, especially in those days, from the gunslinging and feuding plaguing the rap and R&B world. Her boyfiend at the time, music mogul and Jay-Z collaborator Damon Dash, said Aaliyah also had a great mind. "She was intelligent and she caught me," Dash told Billboard.com. "I'm the kind of guy who says things sometimes just to make myself laugh, but she would just catch me making jokes for me. I couldn't get anything past her. She had a very quick mind and a very kind heart."