One of the most promising careers in R&B was cut short in August 2001 when Aaliyah Haughton was just twenty-two years old. During her short life, Aaliyah accomplished more than many other artists in much longer careers, and seemed a good prospect for more, for years to come. In reading this Aaliyah biography book, I was struck with a thought (not a new one for me) that sometimes the most talented are taken from the world early by jealous gods or by fate’s sense of irony. Tim Footman recounts the story of this youthful diva of soul and how her career opened the door for later female vocalists in the same genre, notably Alicia Keyes. With many full-color, full-page photos, this is an Aaliyah biography that is visually as well as verbally something to treasure. As Footman puts things, “We may have lost Aaliyah, but at least we still have the music. Her brief acting career is covered as well as her contributions to music.
A career and life full of potential cut far too short
Aaliyah appeared in concerts (alongside veteran R&B singer Gladys Knight) and on television from the age of eleven. She got her first record deal (with Blackground Records, owned by her uncle Barry Hankerson, as the label’s first artist) at the age of twelve. Hankerson introduced her to R&B recording artist and record producer Robert Kelly (or R. Kelly as he was known professionally) who became her mentor, her producer, and her main songwriter – and her lover. The two were secretly married when she was fifteen, a marriage her parents annulled when they found out about it. One gets the impression that Aaliyah knew she would have to pack everything into a few short years and did her best to do that. Music critics were increasingly appreciative of her voice and style as her career progressed. There is no telling what she might have achieved if not for an allegedly intoxicated, uncertified pilot who crashed a plane and ended her life and those of his other passengers. From the few Aaliyah biography books that I have read to date, this one is the most comprehensive and heart touching of them all.