Remembering Aaliyah

Aaliyah would have turned 37 years old on January 16, 2016

Aaliyah. RJ Capak/WireImage


Aaliyah Haughton was born January 16, 1979, in New York City and her family moved to Detroit when she was five years old. She was a straight A student at the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts. At the age of eleven, she performed with Gladys Knight during a five-night stand in Las Vegas. Her uncle​ Barry Hankerson managed R. Kelly, and Kelly produced her debut CD. She signed a recording contract at the age of 12 with Hankerson's Blackground Records distributed by Jive Records.


Aaliyah released three albums while she was alive: the triple platinum Age Ain't Nothing But A Number in 1994 produced by R. Kelly, the double platinum One in A Million in 1997 (with writing and production by Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Jermaine Dupri, and Rodney Jerkins), and her double platinum self-titled CD in 2001. She recorded three gold singles: her debut hit "Back & Forth" which also hit number one, her second single "At Your Best," and "The One I Gave My Heart To." She also hit number one with "Try Again," "If Your Girl Only Knew," "Are You That Somebody?" and "I Miss You." Her final CD, Aaliyah, was her first number one CD.

In 1997, Aaliyah recorded "Journey to the Past," the Academy Award-nominated theme song to the animated feature Anastasia. She also performed the song for the Oscar telecast in 1998. In June 2013, Aaliyah was featured on a new track by Chris Brown titled "Don't Think They Know." The video features dancing holographic versions of Aaliyah. She is listed by Billboard as the tenth most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and the 27th most successful R&B artist in history.


Aaliyah starred in Romeo Must Die with Jet Li, and Queen of the Damned. She began filming the role of Zee in The Matrix Reloaded, but died before completing production, so her scenes were reshot with Marvin Gaye's daughter Nona Gaye. Aaliyah was also scheduled to appear in The Matrix Revolutions. Aaliyah was signed to star in Honey, which eventually starred Jessica Alba, and the remake of "Sparkle' which starred Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston.

Aaliyah won numerous awards. Here are her major honors:

American Music Awards 

  • 2002 Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist
  • 2002 Favorite R&B/Soul Album: Aaliyah
  • 2003 Favorite Female R&B Artist

BET Awards

  • 2002 Best Actress: Queen of the Damned

Billboard Music Awards

  • 1996 Top R&B Single of the Year, Female; "One in a Million"
  • 1998 Top Hip-Hop/R&B Single Airplay Single of the Year; "Are You That Somebody?"
  • 2000 Top Hip-Hop/R&B Artist of the Year, Female
  • 2003 Top Hip-Hop/R&B Artist of the Year, Female
  • 2003 Top Hip-Hop/R&B Album of the Year, Female: Aaliyah
  • 2003 Top Hip-Hop/R&B Single of the Year, Female: "Miss You"

MTV Video Music Awards

  • 2000 Best Female Video: "Try Again"
  • 2000 Best Video From Film: "Try Again"
  • 2002 Best R&B Video: "Rock the Boat"

MTV Movie Awards

  • 1999 Best Movie Song: "Are You That Somebody?"
  • 2001 Best Movie Song: "Try Again"

Rolling Stone  

  • 2001 Best R&B Album: Aaliyah 

Soul Train Awards

  • 2001 Female R&B/Soul Single: "Try Again"
  • 2002 Female R&B/Soul Single: "Rock the Boat"

Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards

  • 2002 Best R&B/Soul Single: "Rock the Boat"
  • 2002 Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year: "Rock the Boat"

World Music Awards

  • 2002 World's Best Selling Female R&B Artist Of The Year


Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001, at the age of 22 in a plane crash in Abaco Islands, The Bahamas after filming the music video for the single "Rock the Boat." The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, about 200 feet from the runway. Aaliyah and the eight others on board were killed: pilot Luis Morales III, hair stylist Eric Forman, Anthony Dodd, security guard Scott Gallin, video producer Douglas Kratz, stylist Christopher Maldonado, and Blackground Records employees Keith Wallace and Gina Smith.

The aircraft was over its maximum takeoff weight by 700 pounds and was carrying one excess passenger. 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 be employed by Blackhawk International Airways. An autopsy performed on Morales revealed traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. The day of the crash was Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways. He was not registered with the FAA to fly for Blackhawk. Aaliyah's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, which was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount

Weeping Willow Tree in Central Park

Central Park Conservancy and New York City dedicated a Weeping Willow tree to Aaliyah on the pond in Central Park. It is located near Strawberry Fields, the tribute to John Lennon.