Aaliyah Dana Haughton would have been celebrating her 42nd birthday today, if not for her tragic passing in a 2001 plane crash.
The singer had already accomplished so much by the time of her death — at 22 years old she had two platinum albums, several movie credits, had just released her third studio album that would go on to spawn multiple hits, and most importantly, she influenced the genre of R&B in a way very few have and probably ever will.
Nearly 20 years after her death, fans are still keeping her legacy alive and creatives continue to sample and reference her work in their own.
On the ninth anniversary of Aaliyah’s death, Drake penned a letter to the R&B legend, expressing his love for her and all that she was.
“Dear Dana,” he wrote in a 2010 open letter for Rap Radar, using her middle name. “I’ve never lost a parent, a friend, or a lover but I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. I remember getting the news that you had passed and it connected with my heart like a clean shot from Muhammad Ali. I was crushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I was truly in love with you. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed passion and relationships in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life just like you. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being my career path. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up in heaven where I know you rest your head. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Dinner’s on me! Love you always and forever, Drake.”
Drizzy said it best — and with that, we’d like to wish Baby Girl a happy heavenly birthday! Check out more rare photos below. Rest in peace, Aaliyah!