January 16th is Aaliyah’s birthday. She would have been 31 today. Although her life was cut short by a plane accident in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001, her memory will not be forgotten anytime soon. The singer-actress began her career in 1991 when her uncle, Barry Hankerson, signed her to Blackground Records. Three years later, her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number, would be released.
Audiences were immediately captivated by the teenager’s street-smart style and angelic voice. Her debut single, “Back & Forth,” topped the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop singles chart for three weeks. The follow-up single, a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best (You Are Love),” peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.
With the release of her second album, 1996’s One In A Million, Aaliyah helped changed the sound of R&B and Hip-Hop thanks to her new collaborators, Missy Elliot and Timbaland. With singles like “If Your Girl Only Knew,” “One In A Million,” “Hot Like Fire,” and “4 Page Letter,” it was obvious that Aaliyah’s star was on the rise.
In 1998, Aaliyah was invited to the Academy Awards ceremony where she performed the Oscar nominated song “Journey To The Past” from the film Anastasia.
Later in 1998, Aaliyah released yet another single from a soundtrack. This time it was “Are You That Somebody” from the Eddie Murphy film Dr. Doolittle. The single would become one of Aaliyah’s most popular with its stellar production and highly choreographed video.
Two years later the singer would add the title of “actress” to her resume when she starred in the film Romeo Must Die opposite martial arts expert Jet Li. The film debuted at number two on its opening weekend and spawned two hit Aaliyah singles, “Come Back In One Piece” with DMX, and the chart topping “Try Again.”
After completing work on Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah went straight to work on the vampire film Queen Of The Damned and was also slated to appear in the sequels to the popular film The Matrix. She also found time to put in work on her third album, the eponymously titled Aaliyah which was preceded by the mysterious and sexy video for “We Need A Resolution.”
After wrapping up filming in the Bahamas for the Aaliyah album’s second single, “Rock The Boat,” Aaliyah and eight others were killed in a crash shortly after their plane took off from the island on August 25th, 2001. She was 22 years old.