When I read the news last night and learned of Whitney Houston’s death, I felt a huge part of my youth had passed away as well. Her incomparable voice underscored my teens and early twenties. The first time I slow-danced with a boy, it was to You Give Good Love. When I finally realized that boy I had slow-danced with would never love me, Whitney comforted me with Where Do Broken Hearts Go. She spoke to my joys with How Will I Know, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and So Emotional; she soothed my heartaches with Didn’t We Almost Have It All and I Will Always Love You. The Greatest Love of All helped me through some intense internal struggles dealing with body image (for much of my senior year, I was teetering on the brink of an eating disorder, and a good friend and Whitney’s words brought me through it unscathed). I’ve also played The Greatest Love of All as a homecoming court theme with my high school band. I have chilled out to Exhale (Shoop Shoop) and danced my heart out to Love Will Save the Day, grooved on my own personal power to I’m Every Woman, and thrown things around my room screaming to Why Does It Hurt So Bad. There was a time when I thought I was too hip for Whitney– the raw emotion evident in her soaring voice became so exquisitely painful to me at times that I couldn’t listen and instead took shelter in subversive acts like the Violent Femmes and the Dead Milkmen, dismissing her with an eye-rolling reference to “Whiny Houston”, but somehow I always ended up listening to her again anyway. It’s not hard to see why: Whitney’s music was the music of the heart, and her voice the voice of the soul. Knowing that that voice has been silenced forever, I can only smile through the loss and thank her for the incredible music and memories. Whitney, I will always love you.