Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Still One In A Million

It’s been 7 years since Aaliyah’s untimely death. But, she’s still one in a million.

Aaliyah, pronounced Ah-Lee-Yah, burst onto the music scene in 1994 at the age of 15 with her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. By 2001, she was on the verge of super stardom as a budding actress and R&B veteran when tragedy struck. On August 25, 2001 Aaliyah was taken from us leaving behind her best album ever: the self-titled Aaliyah living up to the promise of her name, highest, most exalted one.

Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born January 16, 1979 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. At the age of four, her family relocated to Detroit, Michigan. There, Aaliyah attended a Catholic school, Gesu Elementary, located on the north-west side of Detroit. Even at the young age of six, Aaliyah realized her potential, when she auditioned for a role in her elementary school play Annie. Although her role was small, Aaliyah was inspired to sing from that day forward. She started to perform at school functions and talent shows around the Detroit area. At age 8, Aaliyah began making a name for herself as a vocalist outside of family affairs and school events as she began singing at weddings. By age 10, Aaliyah began working with a vocal coach. The hard work paid off as Aaliyah landed a spot on Star Search hosted by Ed McMahon. On the show she sang “My Funny Valentine,” a song her mother performed often. Like many others before her, Aaliyah lost. While that was a mild setback, her uncle, Barry Hankerson, came to the rescue that same year. Barry arranged for Aaliyah to perform with his former wife, R&B diva Gladys Knight. That year, Aaliyah performed with Knight and enjoyed a five night run at Bally’s Las Vegas Casino.

The following year, Barry formed the record company Blackground Records and signed a distribution deal with Jive Records. He signed Aaliyah as his first artist and introduced her to R. Kelly, then a young artist he was managing. At the age of 14, while still attending the Detroit High School of the Performing Arts, Aaliyah recorded her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. Kelly wrote and produced nearly every song on the album. The contrast between her relaxed vocals and harder, urban rhythms was intriguing and caught the ear of many. The album produced US Top 10 singles "Back & Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)". While still in school and recording, Aaliyah found time to appear in an advertising campaign for Tommny Hilfiger jeans where she met her best friend, Kidada Jones, Quicy Jones’ daughter. That same year, after the nature of their relationship came under fire in the media, Aaliyah ended her partnership with Kelly and searched for a fresh sound until she came across a demo tape of producer Timbaland. In 1996 Aaliyah collaborated with Timbaland to make her second album, the critically acclaimed One In A Million which was certified double platinum. During the success of her sophomore album, Aaliyah continued to attend the Detroit High School for Fine and Performing Arts. She graduated from school in 1997 with a 4.0 G.P.A.

With the success of her second album, soundtrack work followed. Aaliyah contributed the song “Journey to the Past” to the movie soundtrack of Anastasia which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. Although the song did not win the award, Aaliyah was elated to perform the song at the 1998 Oscars, making her one of the youngest to ever perform an Oscar-nominated song in the production's history. Aaliyah scored again in 1999 with the hit song “Are You That Somebody?,” from the movie Dr. Doolittle which was nominated for the 1999 Grammy award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

In 1999, Aaliyah began filming her screen debut, Romeo Must Die, alongside Kung Fu superstar Jet Li. In it she played the part of Trish O’Day, the daughter of a family oriented gangster. Romeo Must Die was a solid hit in the box office. The movie was released on March 24, 2000 and debuted at #1 in the box office. The film grossed over $58 million. "Try Again", taken from the movie soundtrack, went to the top of the US singles chart in June 2000 and propelled the soundtrack album to double-platinum certification. In 2000, “Try Again” won two MTV awards for Best Female Video and Best Video from a Film. Movie producer Joel Silver was so impressed with Aaliyah's performance in Romeo Must Die, he decided to sign her up for the Matrix II and III. Aaliyah's acting skills also earned her the leading role in Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned, #1 in box office sales for the opening weekend.

In 2001, while simultaniously filming Queen of the Damned, Aaliyah recorded her third album. On July 17, 2001, Aaliyah, her first album in more than five years was released. The self-titled album, which demonstrated a new maturity and confidence, debuted at number 2 on the US Billboard album chart and went on to sell over 2.4 million copies worldwide.

Tragedy struck in August 2001 when, after filming her second video, "Rock The Boat," in the Bahamas, Aaliyah and various members of her record company attempted to fly home. The small light aircraft crashed claiming the lives of Aaliyah and her entourage.

Since her untimely death in 2001, Aaliyah has maintained a strong presence. Blackground Records released the posthumous album I Care 4 U, on December 10, 2002 - a definitive collection of Aaliyah's greatest hits as well as six unreleased tracks including the aptly titled single "Miss You," later remix and dedicated to Aaliyah by Jay-Z. Despite her presence, her work has not gone unnoticed. Most recently, Aaliyah was awarded with a Billboard award for Best Female R&B earlier this month. In 2002, she picked up two American Music Awards for Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album In 2001, Aaliyah won a Soul Train Award for Female R&B/Soul Single ("Rock The Boat"). "Rock The Boat" also won the Best R&B/Soul Single, Solo award and R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.

Celebrities Remembrance Of Aaliyah:

"She was the best person I ever knew. ... I never met a person like her in my life," Dash said, his voice breaking with emotion. "Every day that we were together, we cherished. Every memory — every day was a special event, whether it was going to a store or going to a movie or just sitting in a house. Wherever we were was like our own little party, in our own little world."

"We were definitely gonna be married. As soon as she had time, we were getting married — like after 'The Matrix,' " he said. "She was the one — she was definitely the one for me. It wasn't an official proposal, we had just talked about it, you know?" - Damon Dash, then boyfriend

"We always knew Aaliyah could be something special. She came out of the womb special." - Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah's cousin and Blackground Records exec

"Aaliyah was a temple of excitement, joy and peace. To me, she was my little sister, my musical inspiration ... your music will always live on through me." – Timbaland

"I'd like Aaliyah to be remembered as a role model for young women who were out there trying to achieve their goals in life, to stay focused, and you don't have to compromise yourself as a woman to do what you want to do. And to always just follow your dreams, be true to yourself, and be humble and kind to other people because it reflets and it's a good thing. Aaliyah was a great person."
- Fatima (her choreographer)

"If there's one thing I could say about Aaliyah, it's that she was consistent and never egotistical. She was a beautiful spirit that is truly missed."
- Angie Stone

"She was one of those individuals that would light up a room. She always greeted you with a smile. Her time was coming; [she] was just about to explode."
- P. Diddy

"To the world and to the fans Aaliyah was known as Aaliyah, but to us, her extended family, was known as babygirl. And I think that what we got to learn out of this is to appreciate eachother while we're here on earth, and to never take for granted that someone will be here tomorrow. And we're going to keep Aaliyah's legacy alive, and I didn't write anything because I felt like I had to come from the heart. And I love you Aaliyah, you're forever missed.
- Missy Elliott @ '01 MTV VMA's

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