Nine years ago today (Aug. 25), R&B singer Aaliyah Haughton died in plane crash while flying back to the U.S. from the Bahamas after shooting her video for “Rock the Boat.”

Aaliyah was only 22-years old. Yesterday, I wrote a blog entry about some of my favorite Fat Beats memories; well, I was in the legendary record store when someone informed me of Aaliyah’s passing. Needless to say that was not one of my favorite memories.

What Aaliyah left behind was a body of work that helped to define R&B for our generation. Her “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” single, from her 1994 album of the same name, spoke on our collective teenage yearn—we all wanted to be grown. Her remake of “At Your Best (You Are Love)” helped introduce me to the Isley Brothers’ music. Then, when Aaliyah hooked up with Timbaland for her “One in A Million” single in 1996, to me, the game changed.

Tim’s sporadic double-time drum pattern helped open up my palette to include the sounds of the Dirty South. I always thought of that song as the musical precursor to the South’s hip-hop takeover. Interestingly enough it came as a sultry R&B record. With One in A Million Aaliyah had switched her sound, the former R. Kelly protégé had left the fading New Jack Swing sound and hooked up with Timbaland, Missy Elliot, then later added songwriter Static Major to the mix on her 2001 self-titled album.

Along with her artistry there was controversy that surrounded Babygirl’s life—her relationship with R. Kelly, then her romance with Dame Dash and supposed dealings with Jay-Z. Still, none of the scandal seemed to matter much, because on her records, her voice was so angelic. As a fan, I turned a blind eye toward the gossip and the rumors; her music helped me block all of that out. It’s funny but I can tie most of Aaliyah’s singles to some relationship in my life—mostly past girlfriends. It just so happened that she dropped a record every time I was going through something; like if she knew or something. Or maybe it was me subconsciously attaching myself to her songs, looking for deeper meaning.

Whatever the case; today, in remembrance of Aaliyah Dana Haughton, I will play her music and be mindful that life is short and not something to be taken for granted. If you’d like to join me, here are my nine favorite Aaliyah songs—one for every year she’s been gone.

Missing you. —Rob Markman

“Back and Forth”