Remembering Aaliyah: Ten Years Later
- Originally published August 25, 2011
I remember turning on the radio one Sunday morning in 2001, to hear a DJ mention something about a moment of silence. It was then that my mom exclaimed, “Oh, this very pretty black girl, a singer, died yesterday in a plane crash.” The DJ came back on after a brief silence to announce that R&B songstress, Aaliyah Haughton had passed away. I was 13 years old and in a state of sudden sadness, I walked casually to the bathroom where I closed the door behind me, sat on the edge of the bath and began to cry. I was dumbfounded with how such a young and talented being could be gone so soon and even more, so tragically. My family and I spent the day at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and on the long drive home, we listened as a local station told the story of this beautiful girl, through her music.
It was in the late hours of the night on August 25, 2001 that news trickled out that the singer had passed away, along with eight others, when the small plane that was supposed to take them from the Bahamas to Miami, crashed just mere moments after takeoff. Aaliyah was just 22 years old. Though young, she had already established herself as a successful female R&B artist. She had in fact been in the business since the age of 15.
It was in 1994 when she debuted with “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.” The album became an instant hit, much thanks to producer and newly found mentor, R. Kelly. The close collaboration brought rumors that the two were romantically involved and a later confirmed marriage license was found stating the age of Aaliyah being 18. The marriage was annulled by her parents in February of 1995. Aaliyah went on to find guidance in hip hop producers, Timbaland and Missy Elliott who helped the budding artist score huge hits with “Are You That Somebody?” which was featured on the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack and “Try Again” featured in her first starring role, Romeo Must Die. After the success of 2000’s “Try Again,” Aaliyah went back into the studio to record her self-titled third album. Unfortunately, she never saw the release. In August 2001, Aaliyah and crew were in the Bahamas to film the video for her first single off the album, “Rock The Boat.” When filming completed, the bunch was warned not to leave as there was troubled weather predicted and the amount of equipment they wanted on one flight would be too much for the aircraft to handle. Against advice, Aaliyah, along with her seven passengers and the pilot boarded for Miami. The aircraft could not handle the weight aboard and came to a fatal plunge just minutes after takeoff. Everyone on board perished. The music world was in a state of shock. A week later, funeral services for Aaliyah were held in New York where amongst mourning fans, 22 doves, one for each year of the singer’s life, were released in to the skies. Her posthumous album received critical claim and went straight to the charts. Aaliyah had accomplished so much her in her short time on Earth. She helped paved the way for other female artists such as Ciara (another protégé of Missy Elliott), Ashanti, and Beyonce and it is on the 10th anniversary of her passing that we fondly remember the music we grew up to and the woman who could have done so much more. Here’s to you baby girl, you were truly, “one in a million.”
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