Taylor Dayne is best known for belting out some of the most popular songs of the ’80s, including “Tell It to My Heart” and “Love Will Lead You Back.”
But the road to fame had its shares of highs and lows, starting with her childhood on Long Island. “It was very chaotic in our home growing up,” Dayne tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My father was what we would call a rage-aholic. It was a very violent household. It would start with usually my mom at some point. We’d hear her terror and then pretty soon he was barging into our rooms as children. It was very, very traumatic.”
That led to “massive health issues” for Dayne as a child. “At 4 years old, I was hospitalized for kidney and bladder issues,” she says. “Literally, the thing that saved me was music.”
She remembers being in the hospital when she was around 4 or 5 years old and her dad had given her a radio so she could listen and sing along to music. “I was good at imitating and mimicking Stevie Wonder and Karen Carpenter,” she says. Dayne thought they lived “happy, fabulous, beautiful lives” (of course, as a child, she didn’t realize the struggles Carpenter had faced with anorexia). “I said, ‘Bam!’ — 5 years old — I’m going to be a rock star. It’s going to save me.”
Dayne was earning a living singing professionally by 18 years old, making original music. Her life changed when she bumped into a friend from high school who was working at the music production company Warner/Chappell at the time. “He goes, ‘We need a crossover hit,’ and he sent me a tape,” she says. The song they chose to record was “Tell It to My Heart.”
“We had a meeting with my dad,” she says. “He wrote us a check for $6,000. And that’s how ‘Tell It to My Heart’ was created. They threw it out [there] and the rest is history. The song became a phenomenon, No. 1 throughout Europe.”
She adds: “So we’re talking about my father — the same person that I feared the most was my salvation.”
From there, Dayne’s career skyrocketed. By 24, she had sold millions of records and was chosen to open up for Michael Jackson on his “Bad” tour, which ran from 1987 to 1989. “My manager calls and they’re saying, ‘You’ve got a gig and this is a big deal,’” she recalls. “I’m going to open up for Michael Jackson on the ‘Bad’ tour — obviously, at the height of Michaelmania. It was just unbelievable.”
Dayne recalls that during the tour, Frank DiLeo, Jackson’s manager at the time, pulled her aside and mentioned that Jackson had some concerns about her affect on the audience. Dayne says Jackson told him: “‘Frank, I don’t know if you should keep her. I feel like she’s exhausting my audience,” she says, laughing. “I’m exhausting his audience! ‘I just think they look so exhausted after she’s done’ — meaning, I’m doing good.”
Despite her success, Dayne says she still experienced low moments. “There were moments I was more alone than ever and more unhappy than ever — and I had everything I ever asked for,” she says.
Things got tougher when the influential record producer Clive Davis signed Dayne — someone she considered a “father figure” — and then was unexpectedly dropped by him. “I just thought, ‘God, the music industry is really closing their back on me.’ It was devastating. When you’re not watching your name on the charts … it was tough to swallow.”
But Dayne continued to perform in the ’90s — this time as an actress in film, TV and stage, including on Broadway. She also became a single mom to twins Levi and Astaria in 2002 via a surrogate. Recently, Dayne penned her memoir, aptly titled “Tell It to My Heart.” “I couldn’t think of a better title if I tried,” she jokes.
At 56, Dayne is back performing onstage — she’s doing a national tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her hit song, “Tell It to My Heart.” “Now when I perform, it’s just making people happy — that’s the purpose,” she says.
Dayne says there’s a “little hope flame” inside of her that’s helped keep her going. “Men and women that have come into my life have always said, ‘You gave me the strength,’ and yet, you could hear my story there’s been so many weak moments,” she says. When things got tough, Dayne would tell herself, “Get up, get back on that road, and figure it out. Enjoy the ride.” And that she has.
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