Aaliyah Dana Houghton, better known as "Aaliyah", was an American recording artist, actress, and model who's vocal talent, fashionable charm, and passionate spirit, helped redefine R&B and hip hop in the 1990's, leaving an indelible imprint on the music industry during her short time with us!
Born in Brooklyn in 1979 and raised in Detroit, Aaliyah first auditioned for TV commercials and the sitcom series "Family Matters" before performing on "Star Search" at age 9. A few years later she toured and sang in concert with superstar 'Gladlys Knight', who was the ex-wife of her uncle, "Barry Hankerson".
Shortly after her 13th birthday, Aaliyah signed with "Jive Records" and "Blackround Records" by her uncle, who introduced her to R&B singer and record producer "R. Kelly", a creative influence who would become Aaliyah's mentor, and....eventually her husband!
Her debut album "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" sold three million copies in the United States, and went double platinum. However, her contract with "Jive" ended abruptly when Aaliyah and Kelly faced allegations of an illegal marriage....he being 27 and her, only 15!
Nevertheless, the album's two hit singles "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best" made the "Billboard Top 100" list, while her song "The Thing I Like" became part of the movie sound track for the 1994 film "A Low Down Dirty Shame".
Her next album, "One in a Million" was produced by "Timbaland" and "Missy Elliott" of 'Atlantic Records', and went on to sell 3.7 million copies nationally, and over eight million world wide. Not yet 18 years old, Aaliyah was about to inherit her life-long label, "The Queen of R&B"!
However, She couldn't quite shake the acting bug that initially bit her at age 6, when she starred as "Annie" in her first grade school play. So, in 1997, Aaliyah decided to attend the 'Detroit High School for Performing Arts', where she received strait-A's in Drama!
That led to an immediate role on the TV police drama "New York Undercover", where Aaliyah played the role of herself! A year later she appeared at "The Academy Awards", not as an actor....but as the youngest singer ever to perform there--singing "Journey to the Past", the theme song for the animated feature "Anastasia".
In 2000, Aaliyah landed her first major movie role in "Romeo Must Die", starring opposite martial artist Jet Li. It grossed $18.6 million on opening weekend, and ranked number 2 at the box office, while her video soundtrack "Try Again" went on to win two "MTV Music Video" awards, and nominations for both a "Grammy" and "Best R&B Female Vocalist".
A year later she began work on her second film, "Queen of the Damned", and was also slated to star in the sequel of "The Matrix", all of this prior to the release of her final album, "Aaliyah" in July, 2001.
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and various members of her record company boarded a twin engine Cessna in the Bahama's bound for the return trip home to Florida following filming of the music video "Rock the Boat".
The flight was actually scheduled for the following day, but Aaliyah and her crew were anxious to get home, so, against the advice of baggage handlers and the pilot, the small plane took off immediately.
Unfortunately, all their video gear was packed on board a new plane, which was much smaller than the Cessna they had arrived on, thus, exceeding standard weight and balance tolerance limits, which caused the plane to crash shortly after takeoff just 200 feet from the runway--killing Aaliyah and eight others.
Not only was the plane vastly over loaded, but sadly, the pilot was not legally licensed to fly the plane...and was found to have traces of cocaine and alcohol in his blood.
A week later,during a private ceremony, Aaliyah was buried in a silver casket, surrounded by over 800 mourners, including 'Gladys Knight',' Missy Elliott', 'Timbaland', 'Lil Kim' and 'Sean Combs'.
Within a month of the funeral, Aaliyah's final album sky-rocketed from 19th to number one on the 'Billboard Top 100" music chart, posthumously earning her two additional "American Music Awards".
Her final music video "Rock the Boat" also topped the charts and became one of most popularly viewed video's of all time!
In 2002, the release of the film "Queen of the Damned" earned $16 million on opening weekend, and its sound track, along with two singles, became top selling award winners as well.
On the one-year anniversary of Aaliyah's death, a candlelight vigil was held in 'Times Square', as millions observed a moment of silence in her honor, and radio stations across America played her music.
To some degree, Aaliyah's premature end is a call to remember too many other music innovates who left us in a similar fashion....like 'Buddy Holly' and 'Ritchie Valens' (also plane crash victims), 'John Lennon', 'Kurt Cobain', 'Karen Carpenter', and of course the late, greats 'Michael Jackson' and 'Elvis', among others!
Like theirs, Aaliyah's sweet sound and bounty of work, will live long and prosper, in the hearts and souls of music lovers around the world....well after we age gone too!
Thanks, and listen for the sounds of "Aaliyah" on STREETWISE RADIO!
(note: Station owner Michael Ealey will run Aaliyah's new CD compilation [over 1 hour in length] in its entirety...VERY SOON! So, stay logged on to StreetwiseRadio at www.streetwisesd.com/radio