Taylor Dayne became an overnight sensation when she burst onto the scene in the mid-‘80s with her debut single, “Tell It to My Heart,” a top 10 chart-topping dance hit that has remained an audience favorite worldwide for decades.
“I grew up on Grand Avenue in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” the Baldwin native said. “That was my playground when I was young. It gave me a lot of chutzpah.”
She recently returned here — July 23 — for a special benefit concert featuring Lindenhurst native Pat Benatar and her husband, Neil Giraldo, in support of Health and Harmony, a new program sponsored by Catholic Health and the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Health and Harmony takes a non-pharmaceutical approach to engage and educate patients about the positive effects of music on overall health.
“I broke out of New York,” Dayne says. “To come back and play now with Pat Benatar, it’s kind of amazing how it’s come full circle.”
Dayne, who was born Leslie Wunderman, began her professional career after high school when she performed at small New York City clubs with her bands, Felony and Next.
“I was honing in on my chops,” she says. “It was daunting as hell.”
She went solo after finishing college when she got a hold of a demo of “Tell it to My Heart,” originally composed by Seth Swirsky and Ernie Gold for Chappell Music, but overlooked by the label.
Dayne was immediately drawn to the track and recorded her rendition at Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove. The demo managed to get the attention of music executive Clive Davis, who signed her to his label, Arista Records, in 1987.
While the immediate success of her first single would eclipse some of her later tracks, Dayne says she very much still enjoys performing it to this day.
“My God, yes. (It’s not) like you’re asking Billy Joel if he’ll play ‘Tell Her About It,’” she jokes about Joel’s hit song, which he hasn’t played since 1987. “This is my biggest hit. People lose their minds for it. It’s my job to make it interesting. And it really sounds so amazing with a live band.”
Her debut album, also titled, “Tell it to My Heart,” released by Arista in 1988, featured three more top 10 singles, including the tracks “Prove Your Love,” “Don’t Rush Me” and “I’ll Always Love You.” The album’s success brought her to new heights when she was invited to join Michael Jackson on the European leg of his sold-out “Bad” tour.
Dayne’s follow-up album in 1989, “Can’t Fight Fate,” was equally as successful, landing her three more Top 10 charting singles, “With Every Beat of My Heart,” “I’ll Be Your Shelter” and “Love Will Lead You Back.” Both albums have been certified double platinum, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide.
In the ‘90s she decided to break into acting. Her first role on the big screen came in 1994 when she was cast in a remake of the romantic drama film, “Love Affair,” starring Warren Beatty, Annette Bening and the late Katharine Hepburn.
She had minor success in independent films and a few recurring television roles, including the Showtime series “Rude Awakening.” Then, in 2001, she landed a major role on the stage in Elton John and Tim Rice’s hit Broadway musical, “Aida.”
Dayne eventually would release her fifth full-length album, “Satisfied,” in 2008. Her first full-length studio album in almost a decade, it featured the single “Beautiful,” which rose to No. 1 on the dance charts, her most recent hit to date.
She has remained in the spotlight in recent years, only under different guises, as the competitor Popcorn on “The Masked Singer” — in 2020 at the height of the pandemic — and Electra Owl on “RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race.”
“RuPaul and I are very dear friends,” Dayne says. “It was a lot of work … all that pushing and taping.”
Although Dayne hasn’t released a new album since 2008, she hasn’t stopped making music. She’s gone on to release several more successful singles, including “Floor on Fire,” “Dreaming,” “Live Without” and “Please.”
“Making albums isn’t what it used to be,” she says. “But I do have new music coming out.”
Among her accolades, Dayne has been inducted into both the New York Music Hall of Fame and Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.