Real Name: Aaliyah Dana Haughton
Date of Birth: January 16, 1979
Died on: August 25, 2001
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York
Father: Michael Haughton
Mother: Diane Haughton
Age Ain't Nothing but a Number (1994)
One in a Million (1996)
Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), who performed under the mononym Aaliyah, was an American recording artist, actress and model. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. Born of African American and Native American descent, she was the second and youngest child of Diane and Michael Haughton. Enrolled at a young age for voice lessons by her mother, Aaliyah would perform at weddings, church choir and charity events. 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 become an entertainer. Aaliyah's mother was a vocalist, and her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who had been 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 on Star Search at the age of nine. She then auditioned for several record labels and appeared in concerts alongside Knight at age 11.
At an early age, she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. At age 12, Aaliyah signed with 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, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. The album sold three million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). With the release of Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, rumors circulated of a relationship between Aaliyah and Kelly. Shortly after, there was speculation about a secret marriage with the release of "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" and the adult content that Kelly had written for Aaliyah. Vibe magazine later revealed a marriage certificate that listed the couple allegedly married on August 31, 1994, in Sheraton Gateway Suites in Rosemont, Illinois. Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time, was listed as 18 on the certificate; the illegal marriage was reportedly annulled in February 1995 by her parents. The pair continued to deny marriage allegations, stating that neither was married. After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, Aaliyah ended her contract with Jive and signed to Atlantic Records.
Aaliyah worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, One in a Million; it sold 3.7 million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. In 2000, Aaliyah appeared in her first major film, Romeo Must Die. She contributed to the film's soundtrack, which spawned the single "Try Again". The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this feat. "Try Again" earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist.
After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah filmed her part in Queen of the Damned. She released her third and final album, Aaliyah, in 2001. On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in an airplane crash in The Bahamas after filming the music video for the single "Rock the Boat". The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Aaliyah's family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, which was settled out of court. Since then, Aaliyah's music has achieved commercial success with several posthumous releases. With album sales estimated to be between 24 to 32 million copies worldwide, Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine R&B and hip hop, earning her the nickname "Princess of R&B".
Plane crash, death and wrongful death lawsuit
On August 25, 2001, at 6:45 pm (EST), Aaliyah and various members of the record company boarded a twin engine Cessna 402B (N8097W) at Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, The Bahamas, to travel to the airport in Opa-locka, Florida, after they completed filming the music video for Rock the Boat. They had a flight scheduled the following day, but with filming finishing early, Aaliyah and her entourage were eager to return to the United States. They made the decision to leave immediately. Against the advice of baggage handlers and the pilot, all the equipment from the shoot was loaded on to the plane. The group was unaware that the plane was unable to hold all the equipment of the Cessna 404 they had initially flown in by. Therefore, the aircraft exceeded the standard weight and balance tolerance limit provided by Cessna. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, about 200 feet (60 m) from the runway. Aaliyah, 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 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 and a weak heart. 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 (NTSB) 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 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 system. Further investigations determined the plane was over its total gross weight by 700 pounds and was loaded with one more passenger than it was allowed to carry. John Frank of the Cessna Pilots Association stated that the plane was "definitely overloaded". The NTSB reported that the total gross weight of the plane was "substantially exceeded", which caused the center of gravity to be pushed too far aft.
Aaliyah's funeral was held on August 31, 2001, at the Saint Ignatius Loyola Church in New York. Her body was set in a silver casket, which was carried in a glass hearse and was drawn by horse. An estimated 800 mourners were in attendance of the procession. Among those in attendance to the private ceremony were Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Gladys Knight, Lil' Kim and Sean Combs. After the service, 22 white doves were released to symbolize each year of Aaliyah's life. She was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery.
The day of the crash was Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways, an FAA Part 135 single-pilot operation. In addition, Morales 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 Aaliyah and to oversee the production and distribution of her records and music videos, brought an unsuccessful lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court against Instinct Productions LLC, the company that was hired in August 2001 to produce the music video for "Rock the Boat". The case was dismissed due to New York's wrongful death statute only permitting certain people to recover damages for wrongful death.