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Fans Mourn Aaliyah

Late R&B star's fans come out for public memorial

August 31, 2001 12:00 AM ET

The normally swank catering hall Cipriani's on East 42nd St. in New York City was transformed into a makeshift shrine for fans of twenty-two-year old R&B singer/actress Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash last Saturday night along with eight other passengers.

From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. fans could enter the dimly lit hall, whose stone walls were lined with candles, and walk to a dais holding more than a dozen large flower arrangements sent by Virgin Records, Aaliyah's label.

"It still hasn't hit home yet," said one fan, Jenica Nathaniel, who wore a self-made T-shirt that read, "The most exalted one," -- the meaning of Aaliyah's name -- and "You will always be remembered through your music."

"I'm dedicating a part of my wall with a bunch of pictures of her," said fourteen-year-old Holly Churney. "I liked her because she wasn't such a flashy artist. She let her music speak for her."

Two large television screens playing Aaliyah's videos and performance clips in a continuous loop flanked a large picture of the singer. Below her image, the words: "We were given a queen -- We were given an angel," accompanied by her full name, Aaliyah Dana Houghton and her date of birth and death, January 15, 1979 - August 25, 2001.

The fans, mostly teenage girls and young women, were guided through the memorial area, and they placed flowers, teddy bears, cards and handwritten notes on the dais below the singer's image. Once through the memorial there were four books for fans to write messages or sign.

"I wrote a message to her family just telling them I admired her talent," said Andrea Littleton. "I wept. I don't even know this girl, but it's sad. I'm feeling for her family. I pray for her family and that God keeps them strong."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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