Aaliyah Haughton was born in 1979 in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in Detroit. Aaliyah, which means "Highest Most Exalted," was the daughter of Michael and Diane Haughton and was very close to her older brother Rashad Haughton was very close with his sister. He remained a protective figure throughout Aaliyah's life.
Aaliah's family had strong roots in entertainment. Her mother was a gifted vocalist, encouraging Aaliyah's growth and love of the arts. In addition, her uncle Barry Hankerson is prominent in the music industry and her aunt, through marriage to Hankerson, is Gladys Knight.
At the age of ten, she had her first chance at stardom. Performing in Star Search, Aaliyah sang the song 'My Funny Valentine' which she often heard her mother sing. While she failed to win the competition, she began to work with an agent and attended auditions for TV Shows She continued to expand her musical aspirations through her aunt, Gladys Knight. Working with Knight, Aaliyah was able to perform on stage in Las Vegas and accredited this with helping her develop her talents as a performer.
In 1993 at the young age of 14, Aaliyah was signed by her uncle Barry Hankerson's Blackground label. Her album Age Ain't Nothing But A Number came out in 1994 and was heavily produced and written by R. Kelly. With strong vocals and creative production, the album quickly went platinum. In addition, it spawned several hit singles including 'Back and Forth' which was #1 on the R&B charts, 'At Your Best (You Are Love)' which reached #2, and 'Age Ain't Nothing But A Number' which reached #25 on the R&B charts.
Interestingly, it is rumored that R. Kelly married Aaliyah when she was fifteen in 1994, with Aaliyah lying about her age so she would be seen as eighteen. While both singers have denied the marriage, VIBE magazine states that a marriage certificate had been printed. Despite the marriage, the two musicians had a falling out and so, Aaliyah began working with Timbaland and Missy Elliott.
Aaliyah's second album, One in a Million, was released in 1996 and was a big success. Produced by Missy Elliott and Timbaland before they were established names, the album was well reviewed and went double platinum. It had several smash hit singles including 'If Your Girl Only Knew,' 'One in a Million' and '4-Page Letter' all of which were #1 R&B hits. In addition,the single 'The One I Gave My Heart To' was a top 10 R&B hit and 'Got To Give It Up' reached #6 on the Hot 100. The album sold 2.6 million copies in the United States and 8 million worldwide. It also helped Tommy Hilfiger take notice of Aaliyah, giving her an endorsement deal.
Aaliyah's career continued to climb when in 1997, her single from the Anastasia soundtrack 'Journey to the Past' was nominated for an Academy Award. Performing it at the award, Aaliyah became the youngest female artist to perform there. With her single 'Are You That Somebody' from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack, Aaliyah's success continued as it went to #1 on the R&B airplay charts.
Her movie career began in 2000 when she co-starred in the movie Romeo Must Die. Aaliyah contributed four songs to the sound track, including the hit 'Try Again.' The song made history, becoming the first song ever to make it to #1 on the Hot 100 based purely on radio airplay. Aaliyah also starred in the film Queen of the Damned in the year 2001.
The self-titled album Aaliyah, was released in July of 2001 to raving reviews. The album sales were moderate but consistent, reaching gold status within four weeks and eventually achieving double platinum status. However, upon finishing footage for 'Rock The Boat' a song from the album that was receiving a great amount of airplay, Aaliyah died in a plane accident
While flying to Florida from the Bahamas after filming the music video for 'Rock the Boat,' the plane crashed, killing all nine people on board. The accident had a lot of controversy surrounding it. First, the pilot of the plane, Luis Morales III was not approved for the plane he was flying. He had falsified paperwork reporting his hours and had alcohol and cocaine in his blood when the plane took off. In addition, the plane far exceeded the maximum weight for the type of plane being flown. Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001 and her funeral was held August 31, 2001 in Manhattan, New York City.
'Rock the Boat' became a hit single following Aaliyah's death, reaching #2 on the R&B charts and #14 on the Hot 100. In addition, the album's later singles, 'More Than A Woman' and 'I Care 4 U' both did well, reaching #7 and #3 on the R&B charts respectively.