Alicia Keys Reveals That Aaliyah’s Passing Inspired Hit Song

Alicia Keys

Ten years after her breakthrough debut, Alicia Keys is reflecting on one of her biggest hits. The R&B songstress shares that “If I Ain’t Got You” was inspired by the sudden death of Aaliyah.

“‘If I Ain’t Got You’ was also such an incredible song for me, it just means so much. Certain songs change everything. This was one of them,” she said of the single from 2003’s The Diary of Alicia Keys. “The song idea came together right after Aaliyah passed away. It was such a sad time and no one wanted to believe it. It just made everything crystal clear to me—what matters, and what doesn’t.”

The piano ballad still holds a special place in her heart. “I remember writing the beginnings of it on a flight somewhere and then finished it in the hotel once I got where we were going,” she added. “It came quickly and I was so moved to write it and it doesn’t matter how many times I sing it, I love it with the same intensity as when I first wrote and recorded it.”

She also reminisced about working with a then unknown Kanye West on “You Don’t Know My Name.” “Here was this new and extremely eager guy who had so much to prove,” she wrote. “I remember the first day we got together to work on what would become ‘You Don’t Know My Name.’ He played me the rough idea of his first hit single ‘Through the Wire.’ He was just as much a ball of fire then as he is now.”

Alicia will release the 10th anniversary edition of her Grammy-winning album songs in A minor on June 28 and perform at this year’s BET Awards.

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44 Comments

  1. JaydenJ'Adore

    This lying bitch is still trying to clean up her image. Now she’s using Aaliyah as her saving grace. Homewreckers never cease to amaze me w/ their delusions. And it doesn’t help that she thinks she is second coming to God

    [Reply]

    Kim Reply:

    @JaydenJ’Adore, Hmm!! you can always tell the low level, ghetto hoodrats, they stay in the mud, crawl back into your hole, you have no options in life but to be a hater and stay in the mud. IDIOT!! You will never get it. Clearly you think she is the 2nd coming, and how dare you use God’s name in your trash.

    [Reply]

    ItsJustMe Reply:

    @JaydenJ’Adore, I totally agree with you on this one. She was trying take Aaliyah stop right after she died. I never really liked her. Now she using the great Aaliyah to make her sound so innocent. SMH #JustStopAlready!!!

    [Reply]

    kbusby Reply:

    @JaydenJ’Adore, bitch dnt hate cuzz u aint leaving it big with yo fagget ass…

    [Reply]

    Sonya Reply:

    @JaydenJ’Adore,
    What does Alicia making a statement about how that song came about have to do with her trying to use Aaliyah for her saving grace. What’s true is true. Has nothing to do with saving anything. Anyway Alicia doesn’t need saving. Only ignorant people would think that way. Why anyone would even doubt what she says is beyond me. It’s just a statement about a song she wrote and how she felt at that time. Why make it more than that?

    [Reply]

  2. ...

    :”( shes such a sweet heart

    <3 you alicia

    [Reply]

    listen Reply:

    @…, i just think it’s kinda weird regarding the timing. i remember both albums (Diary and Aaliyah) coming out around the same time in 2001 and i remember Alicia outselling Aaliyah. But i’m not sure if I believe Keys wrote that song while she was just beginning to explode into an international superstar. not sure if i believe her…

    [Reply]

    Anita Reply:

    @listen,
    The album DIARY was released at the end of 2003. Why do people find what she says so hard to believe? Especially when it’s really nothing but information about how a song was wrote and how she was inspired to write it? Ridiculous!

    [Reply]

    listen Reply:

    @Anita, Two years later when her career was on a whirlwind and she didn’t even know Aaliyah! the title of the song would make you think it could possibly be about her, but if you listen to the lyrics, none of it really relates to Aaliyah.

    [Reply]

    Anita Reply:

    @listen, Two years later, so what? I think everyone knew Aaliyah then, especially people in the music industry. Alicia didn’t say the song was specifically about Aaliyah, what she said was she was inspired to write about the way she felt because of Aaliyah’s passing. She said that her passing made it clear what was most important and what wasn’t. This is really not hard to believe, especially if you’ve listened to the lyrics.

    [Reply]

  3. Aquierra

    naaaaaw…

    [Reply]

  4. Devingod

    I would love for her to cover an Aaliyah’s song.

    [Reply]

    INCAS Reply:

    @Devingod, i like Alicia Keys and this was sweet of her. But for her to cover Aaliyah’s music – no. Don’t be stupid. Anyway, nice of her to share this

    [Reply]

  5. CagedBird

    When will she stop?…being so amazing. Alicia is a doll. Love her.

    [Reply]

  6. Beysus Walks

    Awwwwwww! *tear*
    She should remake At Your Best You Are Love! That’s totally her style.

    [Reply]

  7. tay

    she is the best. i love her realness<3. her and aaliyah are my faves

    [Reply]

  8. Jorge

    AALIYAH BABY GIRL!! FOREVER!!

    [Reply]

  9. maya

    aw that so sweet <3 love her & Aaliyah.

    [Reply]

  10. bbq

    love you Alicia!

    I really hope she reunites with Kanye on her next album. He’s productions lately have been flawless.

    [Reply]

  11. Kyle

    Alicia has always been so sincere and humble. I would have never guessed that she wrote that song with Aaliyah in mind, how awesome. Alicia’s personality kind of reminds me of Aaliyah’s. They are both sweet, beautiful and genuine…oh, and make GREAT music.

    [Reply]

  12. JohnnyMee

    I love Alicia Keys make up it reminds me of Jessie J, Jessica Ferguson, and Beyonce. These girls always look the part

    [Reply]

    listen Reply:

    @JohnnyMee, Jessie J? lmao!

    [Reply]

  13. DeeJay

    I think I have, first stance of the song translate to missing a person. Well that whole song talking about missing some1.

    [Reply]

  14. Lisa

    So it took her 8 years to just now say this. That story sounds phony, I expect better out of Alicia than to be lying so people will love her.

    [Reply]

    8 years ago Reply:

    @Lisa,

    No, it didn’t! She said it 8 years ago when she wrote her second album. The article above doesn’t state that what is quote was written in her blog 8 years ago.

    You may read on her website.

    [Reply]

    Anita Reply:

    @Lisa,
    How would the truth make people love her if they already don’t? Alicia hasn’t told anyone how a lot of her songs came about. It’s not necessary but it is nice of her to share this with us. I don’t think she’s trying to impress anyone. I think it came up or came to mind and that’s just what she was talking about at the time. I’m sure a lot of people would have rather it been inspired other ways. Who cares, Alicia is the one who knows what inspires her. I don’t think she’s the type to make that kind of thing up. She doesn’t have to. She doesn’t have to let us know at all. I think it’s sweet when we can see how writers are inspired on certain songs. This shouldn’t be an issue.

    [Reply]

    Misha Reply:

    @Lisa, ok so clearly you are not a fan because all of her true fans know that she wrote this on her blog almost 8 years ago.

    [Reply]

  15. Ci-Error Failed

    Bitch, people already love her, stop stanning the dead.

    [Reply]

  16. Eliana

    All you hater!

    [Reply]

  17. Jay king

    I like alicia but nobody sing betta than aaliyah

    [Reply]

  18. A true Fan

    A couple of you don’t understand that this was written by Alicia Keys in her blog in 2003. What is quoted is from here experience in writing her second album “The Dairy of Alicia Keys”.

    If you are a fan, you would know that Alicia has always adored and respected Aaliyah. I would love for Alicia to work with Kanya West again.

    [Reply]

  19. Anita

    Thanks for the insight about that beautiful song. It’s one of my favorite AK songs. I always like to know what inspires writers. That was very touching. <3 Alicia and her music.

    [Reply]

  20. Nits

    Love alicia she’s the best there is

    [Reply]

  21. Nits

    can’t wait for the new album

    [Reply]

  22. akbiggest fan

    makes me love the song more….u go…alicia

    [Reply]

  23. aaliyah

    Kind of random, but ok

    [Reply]

  24. SteveO

    U moronic Americans make me laugh… Why do u all need to make your pathetic opinion heard especially when it’s hate? Could it be uhm jealousy??? A keys is successful both as an entertainer as well as an activist those that need to diss her obviously have too much time on their hands why not look at your life and do something meaningful instead of spreading your hate.

    [Reply]

  25. JB

    I miss Aaliyah.

    Alicia should cover/remake one of Baby Girl’s songs for her next album and release it as a single. Something like “4 Page Letter” or “Erica Kane.”

    To be honest, this is a little out of the blue…

    [Reply]

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  27. cigar box guitar lady

    This really answered question so a quick thank you is in order.

    [Reply]

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