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She's sold 10 million albums and won four Grammy awards, but India.Arie wouldn't be the artist—or woman—she is today without the music of others. From the song that makes her believe in love to the tune that helped her turn a funeral into a sing-along, get all the defining tracks on the soundtrack of India.Arie's life.
stevie wonder

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2. "Isn't She Lovely," by Stevie Wonder
For years, I thought this song was about me. I was about 12 years old before I realized I did not actually know Stevie Wonder (funny but true). It's one of my earliest memories of really being touched by music. This song made me feel simultaneously melancholy and joyful. That was a lot for a little kid to take in! LOL
james taylor

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3. "Sweet Baby James," by James Taylor
This song has brought me comfort all my life! There's something about how emotional it is. It lets me be emotional—I can barely hum the melody without tearing up. It's like the aural equivalent of a nice, fresh, moody, spend-inside rainy day.
bill withers

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4. "Grandma's Hands," by Bill Withers
This song just speaks to my heritage with laser-point accuracy. Bill Withers quite simply has a way with that! At my grandmother Ernestine McMullen's funeral, I started a sing-along with this one—and it worked! Imagine a group of people going from crying to singing and clapping. The power of the perfect word...
Stevie Wonder

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5. "Voyage to India," by Stevie Wonder
As a singer and a connoisseur of vocal, this was the first instrumental song that ever brought me to tears. I listened to it [and] cried. When I looked up the title of the song, I completely broke down! This song just relaxes my nervous system and mind. When I listen to it, I can see it! I named my second album Voyage to India.
the isley brothers

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6. "Hello It's Me," by The Isley Brothers
Breakup song in college. My first real heartbreak. Those chords, that voice; they just do it every time!
collin raye

Photo: Sherry Rayn Barnett/Michael Ochs Archives

7. "In This Life," by Collin Raye
At 16, I started really loving country music and Collin Raye just had the most amazing ballads! The chorus to this song is just perfect. It reminds me that love is real. Those times when it hurts, this is one of those songs that restores my faith. It reminds me of that beautiful movie The Notebook.
Willie Nelson

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8. "You Were Always on My Mind," by Willie Nelson
This is just a perfect song. Like Maya Angelou said, it's not the sentimental stuff [but] the real things—acceptance and appreciation, forgiveness. This is one of my favorite songs of all time.
vince gill

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9. "Whenever You Come Around," by Vince Gill
A song that makes me believe in love.
donny hathaway

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10. "A Song for You," by Donny Hathaway
This song always reminds me of loved ones who have passed away. I love The Carpenters' version as well, but [in] this version, Donny Hathaway's voice just speaks to me. It reminds me of my mom's singing style. It reminds me of my family heritage, and how much I love it all!
stevie wonder

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11. "Stay Gold," by Stevie Wonder
This makes me feel like I can be excellent! I listened to it every day in eighth grade.
roberta flack

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12. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," by Roberta Flack
I used to close my eyes and imagine being Roberta Flack singing this song, playing the piano, sitting there with an Afro and long eyelashes like her album cover photo. It's a big part of why I wanted to be who I am today.
quincy jones

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13. "Betcha Wouldn't Hurt Me," by Quincy Jones Featuring Patti Austin
It’s an empowering breakup song. This is the best—the best! What a smooooooth voice this lady has. I just love her.
beady belle

Photo: Anders Nilsen

14. "Closer," by Beady Belle
Romantic and cerebral at the same time—again, so much of what I love. I fell in love to this song. Good memories.

15. "He Is," by Brandy
This song helped me to raise the bar of self-worth inside of relationships. Funny enough, it didn't make me feel sentimental. It made me feel strong and clear about what I do and don't want.
gregory potter

16. "Our Love," by Gregory Porter
I've asked him to sing this at my wedding someday. He said yes! This is my vision-board song.

Next: The calm-down playlist: Songs to help you mellow out


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