Whitney Houston had “the voice.” When she burst onto the scene in 1985, her self-titled album sold 10 million copies in the U.S. alone. With her second album, Whitney, she became the first woman to enter the Billboard album charts at number one. Whether singing sophisticated pop ballads or soul-stirring gospel, her songs moved us to dance and moved us to tears. Her unparalleled talent influenced an entire generation of young performers: Mariah, Beyoncé, Christina, Alicia… To millions she was pop royalty, but to those who knew her and loved her, she was the girl from Newark who was blessed with one of the greatest musical instruments of our time.

In celebration of the life and musical gift of the singer, actress and model, ESSENCE’s April issue pays tribute to the iconic legend with a photo collage and messages of love from her friends in music, politics and Hollywood.