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Aaliyah's funeral

By Franklin Paul

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Weeping and applauding fans of soul singer Aaliyah marched on Friday alongside a horse-drawn carriage carrying the body of the young artist, who died last Saturday after her private plane crashed just after takeoff in the Bahamas.

The procession kicked off a daylong tribute to the 22-year-old Grammy-nominated performer, which included a memorial event attended by more than 3,000 people at the restaurant Cipriani's 42nd Street, across from Grand Central Terminal.

Wiping tears and cheering ``We love you, Aaliyah,'' her admirers walked several blocks from a Manhattan funeral home to St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue, where they joined hundreds more fans crowded behind police barricades.

Aaliyah's casket could be seen through the glass sides of the carriage, drawn by two white horses. Five limousines stuffed full of flower arrangements followed close behind.

Inside, a litany of entertainment celebrities mourned her at an invitation-only service, including boxer Mike Tyson, rapper Lil' Kim, music mogul Sean Combs, producer Timothy ''Timbaland'' Mosley and rapper Jay-Z.

Among others in attendance were television host Ananda Lewis, rapper Missy Elliott, and actor Delroy Lindo, who starred with Aaliyah in the 2000 film ``Romeo Must Die.''

Following the service that lasted more than an hour, 22 white doves were released from the steps of the church into the sky, one for each year of the singer's life, organizers said.

Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Haughton, and eight others were killed last Saturday when their twin-engined Cessna propeller plane crashed into swampy scrub and burst into flames shortly after taking off from Marsh Harbour airport in the Bahamas.

The singer and other passengers were on their way back from Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas to Florida after filming a music video.

Although investigators have not released formal findings, police have said they are trying to determine if overloading or engine failure played a role in the crash. Bahamian police have said the plane may have been overloaded by as much as 700 pounds (1,120 kg).

Outside Aaliyah's funeral service, fan India Collins of Manhattan stood in tears, holding a poster reading ``Aaliyah, I love you.'' ``She was a beautiful person, inside and out,'' said Collins. ''I'm shocked and I'm angry. The question that passes through my mind is, 'why?''' FIRST HIT WHEN SHE WAS A TEEN

Although only 22, Aaliyah's had enjoyed already rung up a string of hits and was preparing to turn the volume up on her acting career.

In 1994, at 15, she sold a million copies of her debut album ``Age Ain't Nothing But a Number'' in 1994, and was nominated for a Grammy award for the single ``Try Again,'' from the film ``Romeo Must Die,'' in which she had a starring role opposite Chinese martial arts legend Jet Li.

She recently finished shooting Anne Rice's ``The Queen of the Damned,'' and was set to appear in a sequel to the cult film ''The Matrix.'' In July, her third solo album, ``Aaliyah,'' was released and has already sold almost 500,000 copies.

Fans queued up outside Cipriani's, a cavernous catering hall that typically accommodates New York's upper crust, with flowers, stuffed animals and written messages of support for the singer's family. Inside, two 10-foot (3 meter) screens played her music videos, while fans filed along a single candlelit path, and put their names and thought in 10 register books.

The attractive singer, whose singing style married breathy sensuality with complex, thumping Hip Hop tempos, won over fans by singing upbeat songs, and avoiding the kind of controversy that has tarnished the career of some of her young peers.

``She was very respectful,'' said Jasmine Scott of Brooklyn, New York, who had just past through the memorial. ``She wasn't like most entertainers where she always talking about sex and money, she respected herself, she wasn't half naked, and she talked about positive things.

``Her death hurts the heart,'' she said.

Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Detroit when she was 5. She began performing at an early age and by the time she was 11 she was singing in Las Vegas with the legendary Gladys Knight troupe.

Sales of her new album jumped 41 percent last week, according to Soundscan, which tracks record sales.


Aaliyah marched on Friday alongside a horse-drawn carriage carrying the body of the young artist, who died last Saturday after her private plane crashed just after takeoff in the Bahamas.

Diane Haughton

Diane Haughton(C), the mother of R and B star Aaliyah, is embraced after funeral services for her daughter at from St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York on August 31, 2001. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25. (Peter Morgan/Reuters)

Aaliyah Body

Aaliyah,on her way back........R.I.P

We All love you Aaliyah,you were one of a kind,You will alway be in our hearts!