Last updated: 05/20/2014 05:22:12 AM
Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), who performed under the mononym Aaliyah (pronounced /əˈliːə/), was an American recording artist and actress. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. At an early age, she appeared on Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. At age 12, Aaliyah was signed to Jive Records and Blackground Records by her uncle, Barry Hankerson. He introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album. After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, Aaliyah left Jive and signed to Atlantic Records.
She followed by two additional albums, One in a Million and the eponymous Aaliyah. In addition to Aaliyah's commercial success, collaborations with Timbaland helped shape the sound of R&B in the later half of the 1990s. She also modeled for Tommy Hilfiger, appeared in a Victoria Secret ad and starred in two films, Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned, before she and eight others died in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001 after filming the music video for the single "Rock the Boat". Since then, Aaliyah has achieved commercial success with the singles "Miss You" and "I Care 4 U". She became the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 based solely on airplay alone with "Try Again".
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York City, New York. Born of African and Native American descent, she was the second and youngest child of Diane and Michael Haughton. Her first name means "highest, most exalted one" in Swahili. At a young age, Aaliyah was enrolled in voice lessons by her mother. When she was five years old, her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she was raised along with her older brother, Rashad. She attended a Catholic school, Gesu Elementary, where she received a part in the stage play Annie in first grade; from then on, she was determined to be an entertainer. Aaliyah's mother was a vocalist, and her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who was previously married to Gladys Knight. As a child, Aaliyah traveled with Knight and worked with an agent in New York to audition for commercials and television programs, including Family Matters; she went on to appear appeared on Star Search at the age of nine. She then auditioned for several record labels and appeared in concert alongside Knight at age 11.
"We Need a Resolution", the first single from Aaliyah's third studio album, was released in April 2001. The eponymous Aaliyah was released in July 2001. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 187,000 copies in its first week. The album was a critical success, introducing a darker and edgier side to Aaliyah's music, and was noted as having showcased her growth as an artist. In the Summer 2001, Aaliyah filmed the video for Aaliyah's intended second single, "More than a Woman". After the video was completed, another song started to receive heavy reviews and airplay; then became finalized and decided that "Rock the Boat" should be the second single instead, and the "More than a Woman" video was temporarily shelved and confirmed the third single. Most of the songs were written by Static Major, with Missy Elliott contributing the album's fourth single, "I Care 4 U". "Try Again" became the first song to top the Billboard Hot 100 based solely on airplay, which led the song to be released in a 12" vinyl and 7" single.
On August 25, 2001, at 6:45 pm (EST), Aaliyah and various members of her record company boarded a twin engine Cessna 402B (N8097W) at Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island, Bahamas, to travel to an airport in Opa-locka, Florida near Miami, after they finished filming the music video to "Rock the Boat". The crew had a flight scheduled the following day, but Aaliyah and her entourage were eager to return to the United States due to the video filming finishing early, so they demanded that their heavy equipment to be on the plane rather than leave it behind. It resulted in the aircraft being well beyond the standard weight and balance tolerance provided by Cessna.
The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, about 200 feet (60 m) from the runway. Aaliyah, pilot Luis Morales III and the seven other passengers, including her hair stylist Eric Forman, Anthony Dodd, her security guard Scott Gallin, Douglas Kratz (a director of video production for Virgin Records), stylist Christopher Maldonado, Keith Wallace and Gina Smith (both employees of the Blackground label) were killed. 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. The National Transportation Safety Board report stated that "the airplane was seen lifting off the runway, and then nose down, impacting in a marsh on the south side of the departure end of runway 27." It also indicated that the pilot, Luis Morales III, was not approved to pilot the plane he was attempting to fly. Morales falsely obtained his Federal Aviation Administration (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 traces of cocaine and alcohol in his blood.
Further investigations determined the plane was over its total gross weight by several hundred pounds. Eddie Golson, president of Pro Freight Cargo Services at Opa-locka Airport, said workers carted "a pickup truck of freight" from the crash site. Two of the passengers weighed in the region of 300 pounds and sat in the rear of the plane, where the baggage was also stored. The NTSB report stated that "the total gross weight of the airplane was substantially exceeded." In addition, with heavy passengers and cargo in the back, the center of gravity was pushed too far aft. This caused an uncontrollable nose-up attitude, leading to a stall. Aaliyah's funeral was held on August 31, 2001, at the Saint Ignatius Loyola Church in New York, which was attended by over 800 mourners. With the death of Aaliyah, her eponymous album, Aaliyah, went from number 19 to number one on the Billboard 200. The album was certified double Platinum by the RIAA and sold 2.5 million copies in the United States.
2002–2005: Posthumous recognition and wrongful death lawsuit
Aaliyah went on to win two posthumous awards at the American Music Awards of 2002; Favorite Female R&B Artist and Favorite R&B/Soul Album for Aaliyah. Her second and final film, Queen of the Damned, was released in February 2002. Before its release, Aaliyah's brother, Rashad, re-dubbed part of his sister's lines during post-production. It grossed $15.2 million in its first weekend, ranking number one at the box office. In December 2002, a collection of previously unreleased material was released as Aaliyah's first posthumous album, I Care 4 U. A portion of proceeds was donated to the Aaliyah Memorial Fund, a program that benefits the Revlon UCLA Women Cancer Research Program and Harlem's Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling 280,000 copies in its first week. In August of the following year, clothing retailer Christian Dior donated profits from sales in honor of Aaliyah.
Aaliyah was signed to appear in future films Honey (recasted to Jessica Alba), State Property 2 (recasted to Mariah Carey) and a Whitney Houston-produced remake of the 1976 film Sparkle which was later announced cancelled as well as Some Kind of Blue due to Aaliyah's death. Aaliyah was also offered a role in Ice Cube's film Next Friday but due to a busy schedule and promotion of her debut film Romeo Must Die, she could not commit to the role and was later scrapped. Looking ahead, Aaliyah had a supporting role in the two sequels of The Matrix as Zee, the wife of Harold Perrineau Jr.'s character, Link. 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 role. In 2004, The Matrix was released to DVD, tributes and footage of Aaliyah were found inside the special features. She was also set to work with musician Trent Reznor but their schedules (Post production of Aaliyah's sophomore movie Queen of the Damned and Nine Inch Nails' The Fragility Tour) conflicted with each other and the collaboration never scheduled.
The day of the crash was Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways, an FAA Part 135 single-pilot operation. 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.
In 2001, the United States Social Security Administration ranked the name Aaliyah one of the 100 most popular names for newborn girls. Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine hip hop in the 1990s. Her second studio album, One in a Million, became one of the most influential R&B albums of the decade. Ernest Hardy of Rolling Stone dubbed her as the "undisputed queen of the midtempo come-on".
"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. The album produced two other singles: "More than a Woman" reached number seven 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 sixteen on the Hot 100, the latter attaining success even without the promotional push of a music video.
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 Women of the Video Era" in VH1's The Greatest, also ranked number 36 on their list of the 100 Sexiest Artists. Aaliyah also made E!'s list on the 101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment, Juiciest Hollywood Hookups, and Best Kept Hollywood Secrets. Aaliyah recently ranked at number 18 on BET's "Top 25 Dancers of All Time" and ranked at number four on BET's "Top 25 Sexiest Women of all Time".
Her family created The Aaliyah Memorial Fund which will donate money raised to charities Aaliyah supported. Aaliyah's Cancer Awareness Angels participate in a Revlon Run Walk in which Aaliyah herself once participated.
In May 2008, it was announced that The Detroit School of Arts (Aaliyah's Alma Mater) had named a Recital Hall in honor of the late songtress. Aaliyah has sold 8.1 million albums in the United States and over 24 million albums worldwide.
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