Aaliyah’s Death: Everything To Know About How The Legendary R&B Singer Died

It's been 20 years since the singer tragically died in a plane crash along with eight others, but her legacy still remains in pop music, as she continues to be a huge influence on many artists.

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Image Credit: Jim Cooper/AP/Shutterstock

While her career was cut incredibly short by her sudden death at 22-years-old, Aaliyah has had a lasting impact on the music industry. The singer died in a plane crash in August 2001. Born Aaliyah Haughton started her music career very young, signing a deal with Jive Records when she was only 12. While she only released three albums in her lifetime, all have been incredibly influential, and her decade-long career has inspired countless artists. Her music was celebrated with her being recognized as a forward-thinking artist in a March 2021 retrospective from MTV News. Despite being a massively influential songwriter, her music was only recently made available for streaming, in August 2021. Keep reading to learn more about Aaliyah’s tragic passing and her lasting impact on the music industry.

Aaliyah’s music career was cut short by her 2001 death. (Jim Cooper/AP/Shutterstock)

How Did Aaliyah Die?

The One In A Million singer was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001. She was there to film a music video for her song “Rock the Boat.” The plane exploded on impact, crashing shortly after take-off, according to MTV News at the time. All nine people on board died following the crash. The coroner’s report found that Aaliyah died from severe burns and hitting her head hard, via NME. Among the eight others killed were the singer’s friend Keith Wallace, makeup artist Christopher Maldonado, security guard Scott Gallin hair stylist Eric Foreman, Blackground Records reps Douglas Kratz and Gina Smith. The pilot Luis Morales III also died in the crash, via CNN.

Aaliyah’s 1996 album ‘One in a Million’ was a hugely influential record. (Kharen Hill/Kobal/Shutterstock)

The National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the crash, and a report was created. The investigators found that, between passengers and luggage, “the total gross weight of the airplane was substantially exceeded.” The NTSB also reported that Luis “was not approved to act as pilot-in-command in the accident aircraft.” The pilot had also pleaded “no contest” to cocaine possession charges in Florida 12 days before the crash. An autopsy also found traces of cocaine and alcohol, according to MTV.

What Were Aaliyah’s Last Words?

It’s difficult to confirm what Aaliyah’s last words definitively were. The singer’s boyfriend Roc-a-Fella co-founder Damon Dash has shared the last thing she told him before she left for the video in a 2016 interview on The Real. The executive said he’d been against the singer going and knows that if he’d gone with her, he’d have been on the same plane. “She was like, ‘I don’t like that plane.’ I was like, ‘Don’t get on it.’ She was like, ‘You know, I gotta do it,'” he said.

Aaliyah at the premiere of ‘Anastasia’ in 1997. (Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock)

Was Aaliyah Married?

Aaliyah was never legally married. When the singer was 15, she was briefly married to disgraced singer R. Kelly, who was 27 at the time. An alleged marriage certificate at the time forged Aaliyah’s age and said she was 18. R. Kelly is currently on trial for sexual abuse, and a former tour manager testified that the singer paid $500 for a fake ID for Aaliyah to use to marry him, via BBC. The marriage was later annulled by Aaliyah’s parents.

While she wasn’t formally engaged, Damon said that he wished he could’ve married the singer in the days following her death. He eulogized his girlfriend in an interview with MTV at the time. “She was the best person I ever knew. … I never met a person like her in my life,” he said. “We were definitely gonna be married. As soon as she had time, we were getting married.” He also implied that the pair had discussed tying the knot. “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?” he said.

Aaliyah is still a beloved musical artist even 20 years after her tragic death. ( Alex Berliner/BEI/Shutterstock)

Aaliyah’s Legacy And Posthumous Releases

As Aaliyah’s death was incredibly shocking, it was uncertain whether or not the “Rock The Boat” music video would ever air. It premiered in October 2001, two months after the singer’s passing. It’s currently available on YouTube and contains a quote from the singer as well as the years she was born and died at the start of the clip. Following her death, two albums of previously unreleased material have dropped. The first I Care 4 U was released in December 2002, and the second, Ultimate Aaliyah, was made available in May 2005.

Aaliyah winning a VMA in 2000. (Barry Roberts/BEI/Shutterstock)

In the two decades since her death, countless artists have been inspired by Aaliyah and named her as an influence. Her musical legacy can be heard amongst many musicians in a wide variety of genres. In 2002, she received tons of posthumous honors including American Music Award wins for “Favorite Soul/R&B Album” and “Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist.” She was also the subject of the 2014 Lifetime biopic Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, where she was played by Alexandra Shipp.


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