Taylor Dayne: A Warrior in Life As Well As Onstage

Taylor Dayne

Taylor Dayne: A Warrior in Life As Well As Onstage

Taylor Dayne returns to her beloved Long Island, landing at The Suffolk theater in Riverhead on March 3 with her “Love Me” tour.

Her distinctive powerhouse voice has thrilled audiences since she skyrocketed to international fame three decades ago with a song that became the anthem of the late ’80s, “Tell It To My Heart” (1987). In quick succession, she released back-to-back U.S. top-10 hits “Prove Your Love,” “I’ll Always Love You,” “Don’t Rush Me,” “Every Beat Of My Heart,” “Love Will Lead You Back” and “I’ll Be Your Shelter.” Her celebrity attracted Michael Jackson’s attention and in 1988 she opened for his “Bad” tour.

Dayne took on Broadway with leading roles as Amneris in Aida and Grizabella in Cats. She has acted in TV and film, and of her appearance as Popcorn on The Masked Singer she said, “It was the best experience yet the most work; so creative and challenging.” Dayne returned to the show on Nov. 29, 2023 with an impassioned rendition of “I Will Survive.” In January 2024, she appeared as herself on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Dayne marked the 35th anniversary of “Tell It To My Heart” with a new remix released last September backed by electronic dance music trio Cash Cash, who performed it with her on Good Morning America in October 2023, and will join her on the 2024 tour.

Dayne has carved out her own path and been her own warrior. Never married, she’s the mother of twins, Astaria and Levi, through surrogacy. 

She was happy touring and enjoying her family when she was suddenly sideswiped in July 2022 with a diagnosis of colon cancer. After surgery to remove a highly invasive malignant tumor and 10-inches of her colon followed by a difficult recovery, she was declared cancer free.

Now she is back as dynamic as ever, and with a new sense of purpose. Dayne, who is gracious, genuine and energetic, took time from her busy schedule to chat. 

Did you grow up in Baldwin, Long Island?

I sure did! I grew up on Grand Avenue in Baldwin and then Freeport and then I felt like I lived in every town on Long Island.

What are your memories about growing up on Long Island?

I’m still there in summers; it’s beautiful. I have a lifetime of friendships on Long Island. I was exposed to the clubs like Right Track Inn, which did all original groundbreaking music. It’s where everything started, just that hour outside of New York where the music business was, where I needed to be. I am forever grateful that I was born and raised here.

Did you always want to be a rock star?

That’s it! Yeah! Singing along with the radio. Seeing pictures in Rolling Stone magazine, I thought, wow, you guys live a great life! 

What was it like the first time you heard yourself on the radio?

I think it was a midnight dance show. They would play new singles and I was trying to break in “I’m The One You Want.” I did two singles first before I made it big with “Tell It To My Heart.” There’s a long story before I became Taylor Dayne. I spent lots of years with bands trying to make it. When I first heard myself on the radio, I probably screamed 18 times around midnight. 

How did you get “Tell It To My Heart?”

I went to high school with this kid, Anthony, and I saw him on the West Side Highway when I was playing some gig in New York. He said I’m working at Warner Chappell [music publishing company]. Let me send you some [I said] and “Tell It To My Heart” was one of the songs. Rick Wade, my production partner, said that’s the song you should record and I said yeah!

Wasn’t your father instrumental in helping you record “Tell It To My Heart?”

Yeah, I still have the contract. Rick and I sat with my father. We knew how much it would cost based on recording the other singles. He gave us $6,000 to record at the studio.

What stands out about opening for Michael Jackson’s Bad tour?

We’re talking about one of the biggest tours and artists in the world. I was 24 years old and scared. Jackson played soccer stadiums, 60,000 to 80,000 people. We played arenas in the States. The big one was Madison Square Garden. It was everything I dreamed of. This was the ride. 

What was the writing process like for you with your memoir, Tell It To My Heart:  How I lost My S#*T, Conquered My Fear, and Found My Voice, which was released on Feb. 14, 2019?

Yes, right before Covid. In just these four years, so much has transpired that I have another book in me. I am now cancer free. That book was really a celebration of my 30-year anniversary for “Tell It To My Heart.” It was something I needed to do, but I had to learn how to be a writer, though I had a ghostwriter. The woman I work with that I call Momma said let’s get you on a Ted Talk, let’s put this into performance art now, so that came first. It took six months of preparation and was one of the hardest things I ever did. It was the foundation for the book. Now I feel there are more lifetimes I’ve lived within the last four years, I could write another book, but for a different journey.

In 2022, you were diagnosed with colon cancer and after major surgery you are cancer free. What message do you want to send out to people after that experience?

It’s all about early detection, from mammograms to pap smears, to colonoscopies. I developed a really aggressive form of cancer within six months of one colonoscopy to the next. People have to understand how quickly these things manifest. I had a couple of polyps, so they said they needed to see me regularly. This is your job, your diligence, that’s your warrior hat. You need to take care of you and make sure you stay on top of these things because the difference between cancer free and unfortunately not living anymore quickly needed to be decided.

One of your suggestions to people going through difficult times is to surround yourself with a pack. Who is at the top of your pack?

I’ve got a sisterhood, my East Coast, West Coast people. We travel, work, we’re all over and yet we show up for each other. It’s staying diligent with friendships, with people from my past and who I want to still be connected to. Time is so precious, understanding that and making sure I take the time for them is so important, because they will be there when the curtains close and I go home at night.

Do you find performing more cathartic since cancer? 

Highly, because it could have been very debilitating. My manager was begging me not to perform. I took a month or so before I could even consider it. There’s like a muscle, it’s like a memory, it was so cathartic. More than that, I earned the stripes of vulnerability. I needed to sit with my fans, and they came up for me and stayed. All I can say is thank you. So many have shared their journeys with me. I grab somebody’s hand and they grab mine and they say, you have no idea. No, I do. I’m in a different place in my life now, it’s a different part of the story. I made the decision to fight back.

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Taylor Dayne