Remembering Detroit’s ‘Babygirl’ 20 Years After Her Death

DETROIT – It’s been 20 years since Detroit and the world lost Aaliyah, but her legacy is not forgotten.

Aaliyah, also known as “Babygirl” or “Princess of R&B”, was one of the biggest stars in music and entertainment at the time of her tragic and untimely death in 2001.

Aaliyah, who grew up in Detroit, left a lasting impact on those who worked with her and those who supported her.

Local 4 member Karen Drew has spent months interviewing some of Aaliyah’s closest people. Watch the extended version of our special on Aaliyah in the video player above.


What you need to know about Aaliyah’s story

At the time of her death in 2001, Aaliyah was only 22 years old. But it had already had a huge impact on the music industry, the film industry and even in business.

Early life

Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1979. She was five when her family packed their bags and moved to Detroit.

Aaliyah started out in music very early, performing in choirs and churches and taking singing lessons. While in Gesu Elementary School, she was chosen for the play “Annie”. Eventually, she would attend Detroit Performing Arts High School, where she had a 4.0 GPA, while managing an explosive music career.

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Aaliyah has often credited the support of her family with helping her succeed, supporting her desire to pursue a musical career.

“When I told my parents that I wanted to go down this path, they were with me the whole way,” Aaliyah said, according to her bio. “They were the ones who made me come and go to my singing, dancing, private guitar lessons, rehearsal of plays at Gesu Primary School and they even made sure that the sets for the plays were transported to the Marygrove College. What could be more important?

Success in music and cinema

Aaliyah first caught the attention of the music world at the age of 10, when she appeared on the “Star Search” TV show.

At age 12, Aaliyah was signed to Jive Records and Blackground Records from her uncle Barry Hankerson, where she was introduced to R. Kelly.

In 1994, at the age of 14, Aaliyah released her first album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number”. The first single, “Back And Forth,” was one of the top five Billboard Hot 100 hits and a # 1 R&B song.

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The follow-up single, a remake of “At Your Best (You Are Love) by the Isley Brothers, reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was # 2 on R&B radio.” I still remember how much I remember. was nervous just before the release of “Back And Forth,” she said. “I kept wondering if people would accept it. When it turned gold, I got my answer, and it was an incredibly satisfying feeling. “

During the success of her debut album, controversy surrounding her relationship with R. Kelly began to surface, including the allegation of a secret marriage between Aaliyah and Kelly. She would then be 15 years old. Although there were several reports of her parents annulling the marriage in 1995, the two continued to deny the allegations. (R. Kelly is currently on trial for several sexual assault allegations involving underage girls)

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Related: Ex-tour manager testifies against R. Kelly about Aaliyah

In 1996, Aaliyah left Jive Records and signed with Atlantic Records, where she worked with Timbaland and Missy Elliott, on her second album, “One in a Million”. The album peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard 200, selling three million copies in the United States and eight million worldwide.

Aaliyah & Missy Elliott at the 12th Annual Soul Train Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, USA. (Photo by Chris Walter / WireImage) (Chris Walter)

In 1998, Aaliyah began to enter the film industry, with her music and acting skills. Her 1998 hit, “Are You That Somebody,” from “Dr. Doolittle’s Soundtrack, was a big hit. That same year, Aaliyah performed” Journey To The Past “for the nominated film Anastasia. for an Oscar for best song.

In 2000, Aaliyah landed her first movie role in “Romeo Must Die”, starring Jet Li. The film grossed $ 18.6 million in its first weekend. Aaliyah served as an executive producer on the film’s soundtrack, where she contributed to four songs, including the # 1 hit “Try Again,” which ultimately earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Singer.

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Aaliyah landed her second movie role in 2001 in “Queen of the Damned”, directed by Michael Rymer. The gothic vampire horror film grossed $ 45 million at the box office and was actually released in 2002, after Aaliyah died.

Aaliyah’s third and final studio album, the eponymous “Aaliyah,” was released on July 7, 2001, as the No. 2 album on the Billboard 200.

Plane crash in the Bahamas

On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and members of her record company boarded a small plane at Marsh Harbor Airport in Abaco Islands, Bahamas, for their way to Florida. They had just finished filming the music video for “Rock the Boat”, directed by Hype Williams.

They had originally planned to leave a day later, but filming for the video ended early and the decision was made to leave, despite the plane being smaller than the one they had arrived in. All the material has been loaded onto the plane.

The aircraft crashed and caught fire shortly after takeoff.

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The plane suffered an engine failure and an investigation revealed that the plane had attempted to take off when it was overloaded with passengers and weight. Investigators also found that the pilot, Luis Morales, was not licensed to fly the plane, and toxicology results revealed he had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system.

All nine people on board died in the crash, including Aaliyah, Anthony Dodd, Eric Foreman, Scott Gallin, Keeth Wallace, Gina Smith, Douglas Kratz, Christopher Maldonado and the pilot, Luis Morales.

A private funeral was held for Aaliyah on August 31, 2001, in Manhattan, followed by a procession, attended by approximately 800 mourners. She is buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

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Fans hold a memorial for late R&B singer Aaliyah at Cipriani Restaurant, as the funeral takes place at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on August 31, 2001 in New York City. The 22-year-old singer died on August 25 in a plane crash in the Bahamas. (Photo by George De Sota / Getty Images) (Getty Images)
A horse-drawn carriage transports the coffin of R&B singer Aaliyah ‘to St. Ignatius Loyola Church for services on August 31, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images) (Getty Images)

After her death in 2001, Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Ginuwine and her brother Rashad joined the MTV Video Music Awards to pay tribute to Aaliyah.

Aaliyah helped shape her era and the future of R&B, and inspired countless artists for years after her passing. Drake said that Aaliyah had the biggest influence on her career and that she had a tattoo of her on her back.

Other artists including Adele, The Weekend, Beyoncé, Rihanna and J. Cole all cited Aaliyah as major influences.

A fan of R&B singer Aaliyah Haughton holds a sign during a memorial candlelight vigil on August 27, 2001 in Detroit, Michigan, at Aaliyah’s former school, the Detroit High School for Performing Arts. (Photo by Bill Pugliano / Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Spotify Aaliyah Local 4 Playlist:

Until August 2021, Aaliyah’s only album available on streaming services was “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number”. Following a dispute between the label and the estate, “One in a Million” was finally released on all streaming platforms. Here is a collection of some of his most popular songs:

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