Just two weeks ago on January 16, 2013, I noticed throughout social media several people took time to remember one of the great young entertainers of our time who is no longer with us: Aaliyah Haughton. That date, January 16 was Aaliyah’s birthday and this year she would have turned thirty-four. Tragically, her life ended August 25, 2001 in a plane crash after filming a music video in the Bahamas.
Accidental death hurts wherever and whomever it happens to, but it is very painful when a young person dies in the middle of a very promising career. At twenty-two, Aaliyah had a list of accomplishments that read like an artist many years within the industry. Three studio albums and two feature films various awards and a performance at the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony all defined Aaliyah as a busy young artist who found great success. I had to think back to what I was doing in life at twenty-two. I remember just finishing college and taking on a couple of jobs arranging music here and there, but nowhere near the accomplishments of Aaliyah. In fact, I had just started working with an independent record company here in Miami with maybe a couple more years before actually recording marketable music.
Aaliyah’s talent became clear very early in her life with her first album released at fifteen years old. The larger question is this: how much would Aaliyah have accomplished if she were alive today? Answers to that question will vary from person to person because of what we have all seen from prodigal entertainers of the past. Some artists’ have enjoyed long and illustrious music careers, and others “flamed out” under external pressures that ended their music and sometimes their lives. To speculate about what Aaliyah might have done, we might start with examining the clues of the projects she left tabled at the time of her death. Aaliyah filmed the motion picture “Queen of the Damned” which was released after her death. Moreover, she was to play the character Zee in “The Matrix” sequels. (The role was later recast to Nona Gaye) With these types of movie roles on her résumé and still in her twenties, Aaliyah would assuredly have appeared in more movies. Would she continue to record music? I am sure Aaliyah would have continued the singing part of her career because she seemed to enjoy her musical performances. How big a star would Aaliyah become before her thirtieth birthday? Most likely more success than even she dreamed. The exposure from the films would have made Aaliyah one of our most recognizable young stars by the year 2009.
The years to follow are not so easy to predict. You see, Aaliyah was engaged to marry co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records Damon Dash at the time of her death. If the marriage worked well most likely, the young singer/actress and husband would have children, which would complicate her career movements. Nevertheless, with her talent this young woman could have been one of the greatest entertainers of our time. Well, it is all speculation, which makes for a good conversation among friends. Aaliyah’s premature death leaves us with some very good music and films for our enjoyment. Her family, friends, and fans that were waiting for so much more miss Aaliyah Haughton. Today, we have the memories and promise of what could have been.