Gloria Estefan's Playlist: Latin Singing Sensation Shares Top 6 Musical Inspirations

PHOTO: Cuban-American singing sensation Gloria Estefan sat down with "Nightline" to talk about music that has influenced her over the years.
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Cuban-American singing sensation Gloria Estefan, along with her band the Miami Sound Machine, helped break boundaries by making Latin music a staple on the mainstream pop charts.

The group's smash hits, such as "1-2-3," "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," "Conga" and "Anything For You," were just some of the dozens of songs that put Gloria Estefan on the map and remain popular today.

Almost four decades after joining the Miami Sound Machine, Estefan is still making new music. Her 26th studio album, "Miss Little Havana," was released on Sept. 27.

In an interview with "Nightline" at New York City's Theater Bar, the 54-year-old singer recalled the top six songs on her playlist that have inspired her over the years and influenced her sound and her style.

1. "Quimbara," Celia Cruz

Born Gloria Fajardo on Sept. 1, 1957 in Havana, Cuba, the singer lived her early years at a time when a bloody revolution ravaged her home county. She and her family fled Cuba to the United States when she was still a toddler after Communist leader Fidel Castro rose to power.

"My first musical memory is of the amazing Cuban music of Cachao Celia Cruz, and the reason I remember this is because when we left Cuba, I was only 18 months, we weren't allowed to take anything with us," Estefan said. "My mother, being a lover of music and coming from a big musical family, it was a big part of our life. So my grandmother started smuggling Cuban records in baby food that she would send me from Cuba because they didn't make mango compota here in the States yet. Right now, the song that reminds me of Celia most is Quimbara."

2. "Sabor a Mi," Trio Los Panchos

After coming to the United States, Estefan's father, Jose Manuel Fajardo, eventually joined the U.S. Army and served two years in Vietnam.

"When my dad first returned from Vietnam, he was very ill and he went downhill very fast," Estefan said. "It was Agent Orange and it was a complicated situation.

"I was very shy but music was always my first love," she added. "I learned, basically, to make [my dad] happy. I learned old Cuban standards for him -- 'Sabor a Mi' and 'Tu Me Acostumbraste' -- I was kind of hermetically sealed, but not only because it's my personality and I tend to be very quiet like my dad was, but because I wanted to be so strong for my music was my escape. I would lock myself in my room with my guitar and sing, and when I would sing, the tears would pour down and I would just let everything out."

3. "What a Difference a Day Makes," Esther Phillips

In 1975, Estefan met her first and only boyfriend, keyboardist Emilio Estefan, who led a popular quartet called the Miami Latin Boys.

"When I first met Emilio, they actually had called him over to give us some tips on how to get a band together, so Emilio came over with his accordion and very short shorts," Estefan said. "That was the first time I saw him. He was, at the time, 21 years old, I thought he was this older guy, I'm only four and a half years younger than Emilio, but he seemed very worldly to me, and he had this band that was doing really great in Miami, so that was it."

A few months later, Estefan attended a wedding where the Miami Latin Boys were playing. At the time, she was still a student at the University of Miami.

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