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Jim Stark

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession: producer, lawyer, businessman

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After landing a record deal at age 12, glamorous singer-actress, Aaliyah became a star after working closely with mentor - and rumored husband - R. Kelly on her debut album, 1994's triple platinum Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. Cultivating a "street but sweet" persona to match her silky vocals, Aaliyah added Missy Elliott and Timbaland to her list of mentors/producers, scoring again with 1996's multiplatinum One in a Million After singing the Oscar-nominated song "Journey to the Past" for the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997), Aaliyah's allure to people of all ages and races earned her a starring role opposite Jet Li in the action romance "Romeo Must Die" (2000), which yielded her smash single "Try Again" on the movie's soundtrack. On a definite roll, both on the big screen and the Billboard charts, the down-to-earth performer, beloved by everyone working in the R&B/hip-hop world, filmed the title role in the Anne Rice adaptation of "The Queen of the Damned" (2002), followed by being cast in the back-to-back sequels to the monster hit "The Matrix" (1999). Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Shortly after the release of her third album, Aaliyah, on Aug. 25, 2001, the 22-year-old and her entourage...

After landing a record deal at age 12, glamorous singer-actress, Aaliyah became a star after working closely with mentor - and rumored husband - R. Kelly on her debut album, 1994's triple platinum Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. Cultivating a "street but sweet" persona to match her silky vocals, Aaliyah added Missy Elliott and Timbaland to her list of mentors/producers, scoring again with 1996's multiplatinum One in a Million After singing the Oscar-nominated song "Journey to the Past" for the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997), Aaliyah's allure to people of all ages and races earned her a starring role opposite Jet Li in the action romance "Romeo Must Die" (2000), which yielded her smash single "Try Again" on the movie's soundtrack. On a definite roll, both on the big screen and the Billboard charts, the down-to-earth performer, beloved by everyone working in the R&B/hip-hop world, filmed the title role in the Anne Rice adaptation of "The Queen of the Damned" (2002), followed by being cast in the back-to-back sequels to the monster hit "The Matrix" (1999). Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Shortly after the release of her third album, Aaliyah, on Aug. 25, 2001, the 22-year-old and her entourage were killed instantly when the small plane they had chartered after filming a music video in the Bahamas crashed after takeoff. Posthumously, her eponymous album topped the charts while millions of fans, family and friends grieved over her premature loss. Although her charmed life was cut short, Aaliyah left behind a tragic legacy of what might have been, based on an already distinguished career that had showed no signs of slowing down.

Born Jan. 16, 1979 in Brooklyn, NY, Aaliyah Dana Haughton was blessed with a smooth singing voice and exotic beauty, due in part to her African-American and Native American lineage. Early on, she decided she would go by just her first name professionally, adding to her later mystique. Aaliyah moved with her family to Detroit, MI when she was five and was promptly enrolled in voice lessons. Performing at weddings, in church and wherever else she could manage, the young singer had the fortune to be born into an entertainment industry-connected family: her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who had once been married to the legendary singer Gladys Knight. As a child, Aaliyah - nicknamed "Baby Girl" - cut her professional teeth touring with Knight, gaining valuable experience and making connections. Not even an unsuccessful appearance on "Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995; CBS, 2003-04) could slow her ascent, and she successfully landed a record deal at age 12 on her uncle's Blackground Records, which had ties to Jive Records.

Aaliyah's uncle would also introduce the young singer to another powerful mentor, singer/producer R. Kelly, who would not only serve as a guiding force for Aaliyah, but also perform lead songwriting and producing duties on her debut album, 1994's Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. Going triple platinum, the album spun off the R&B No. 1 "Back & Forth," the No. 6 hit "At Your Best (You Are Love)," and the title track which was a minor success. An immediate sensation because her adult lyrics and persona belied her age, Aaliyah stood out from her peers with a glamorous, almost mysterious persona, often wearing baggy clothing and sunglasses, nearly always clad in black and sporting a Veronica Lake-inspired peekaboo hairstyle. Still, she found herself making unwanted headlines when rumors began to swirl that the then-15-year-old had married R. Kelly, who was more than 10 years her senior. A marriage license issued in the state of Illinois with the pair's names on it, a record of her parents annulling the marriage and Kelly's refusal to comment only fueled the fires of scandal, and the two were unceremoniously booed at that year's Soul Train Music Awards.

Following this upheaval, Aaliyah changed record labels, hooked up with producers Jermaine Dupri and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and recorded her follow-up, the acclaimed, multiplatinum 1996 disc One in a Million. The album introduced the singer's more mature sound and focused on her undeniable talent and range, fusing hip-hop beats with R&B grooves in a self-described "sweet but street" way that harkened back to the early work of Mary J. Blige. She earned another R&B No. 1 with "If Your Girl Only Knew" and notched additional minor hits "Hot like Fire" and "4 Page Letter." Although she was managed by her parents, Aaliyah's videos and image were defined by a natural sensuality rather than a calculated sexiness, and her slinky vocals helped distinguish her from up-and-comers of a similar age like Monica and Brandy. She graduated from high school in 1997 and lensed her first acting role that same year, playing herself in an episode of "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98).

Critics further took note of Aaliyah's gifts when she sang the Oscar-nominated song "Journey to the Past" for the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997), a performance she reprised at the actual Academy Award ceremony. In fact, her performance of that same song on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (syndicated, 1996-2002) so impressed producers of the in-development Broadway musical "Aida" that she was invited to audition. While Aaliyah did not land that stage role, she did book a prestigious Tommy Hilfiger endorsement and recorded what became perhaps her signature song, "Are You That Somebody?" on the "Dr. Dolittle" (1998) soundtrack. Not only was the film a smash, but the song was as well, hitting No. 1 on the R&B chart and becoming one of the most ubiquitous singles of the era, earning universal praise from critics for its dark sound and creative sampling, including a baby's surprisingly melodic cooing.

Aaliyah's enigmatic persona made her a natural to tackle film, and in 2000 she landed the female lead in the action romance "Romeo Must Die" (2000), inspired by equal parts William Shakespeare and the martial arts mastery of its male lead, Jet Li. The tale of two warring gang families, one African-American and the other Asian-American, was a hit and provided the multitalented entertainer the opportunity to executive produce the soundtrack as well as contribute four songs. The best of these, "Try Again," became Aaliyah's biggest chart hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100, earning her the honor of becoming the first act to top the charts based solely on airplay, and nabbing her a Grammy nomination. The single's sexy, action-packed video won Aaliyah two MTV Video Music Awards and the soundtrack itself went platinum. In her personal life, she had reason to celebrate as well, when she became engaged to Damon Dash, the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records.

Quickly building on her film success, Aaliyah landed the titular role of an ancient vampire goddess in the Anne Rice adaptation of "The Queen of the Damned" (2002) and began filming. In the meantime, she was also subsequently cast as Zee in the back-to-back 2003 sequels "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions." In July 2001, she released her long-gestating third studio album, Aaliyah, which debuted at No. 2 on the album charts, spawning the hit "We Need a Resolution." In August of that year, Aaliyah and members of her team traveled to The Bahamas to film a music video for the album's second single, "Rock the Boat." After finishing early, the singer and her entourage decided to take an earlier flight back to the United States in a plane that was smaller than the one in which they had arrived, resulting in a situation where the craft was over its maximum takeoff weight by 700 pounds and carrying one more passenger than its certification allowed.

On Aug. 25, 2001, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing Aaliyah and the eight other individuals onboard. An investigation showed that the pilot was not approved to fly, had falsely obtained his license and credentials, and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. As a result of the accident, Aaliyah's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit that was later settled out of court. Response from Aaliyah's fans and friends was immediate. More than 800 mourners - including Sean "Puffy" Combs, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Mike Tyson, Jay-Z and Lil' Kim - turned out for her private funeral, held on Aug. 31, culminating with 22 white doves being released - one for every year of her life. A public funeral drew 3,000. Accordingly, her self-titled album topped the album charts, and the video and single "Rock the Boat" were released, reaching No. 14 on the Hot 100 charts and No. 2 on the R&B charts. The album sold almost three million copies and spun off the hits "I Care 4 U" and "More than a Woman," with the latter single going to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart. In the midst of the public mourning, however, her death was suddenly eclipsed in the news by the attacks of Sept. 1, 2001.

The singer posthumously won two American Music Awards, and had completed enough of "The Queen of the Damned" for it to be released, thanks to some creative editing and Aaliyah's brother dubbing some of her lines. Not surprisingly, it became a modest success. In 2002, a collection of previously unreleased material was compiled as I Care 4 U, Aaliyah's first posthumous album, which partly supported a memorial fund in her name that benefited cancer research. The album's lead single, "Miss You," went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart and topped the R&B chart. Aaliyah's "Matrix" role was recast with Nona Gaye, but a few scenes the late performer had filmed were included as an extra on the DVD. As with many talented performers who died much too young, fans and critics could only speculate as to the full extent of Aaliyah's professional and artistic potential. Even though her life and career were cut short, she left behind an impressive body of work that would live on forever.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Mystery Train (1989)
2.
 Eight Men Out (1988)
3.
 Sleepwalk (1986) Detective
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

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