In her own words, pop star Taylor Dayne is “strong, proud and big-voiced.”
Just like her fans.
This year’s Central Coast Pride headliner, Dayne is best known for a string of full-throated anthems and high-energy dance hits in the 1980s and ’90s. She’s also an outspoken supporter of the gay rights movement, performing in front of 50,000 fans at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, and appearing at Pride celebrations across the country.
“I’ve looked at my career over the last 22 years, and the gay community has been my most loyal audience,” said Dayne, who performs July 10 in downtown San Luis Obispo’s Mission Plaza. “They are truly so fun to perform for, and they are truly so passionate.”
Growing up on Long Island, Dayne embraced music early on.
“I was that little girl singing along to the radio — more than that, every commercial that came on, every jingle,” she recalled.
Her bedroom walls were plastered with pictures of The Rolling Stones, Debbie Harry, Pat Benatar and Patti Smith.
“Even Linda Ronstadt had a big ballsy voice,” Dayne said. “These were the chicks that were nailing it.”
After graduating from high school, Dayne performed professionally as a band member and backup singer before deciding to go solo.
“You just get so sick of so many opinions destroying so many good things,” she said. “The whole idea is to have your own unique identity and your own unique sound.”
When Dayne signed with Arista Records, she was still using her birth name, Leslie Wunderman.
“A little voice inside me said, ‘I want to change. I want to be someone else,’ ” she recalled.
So she and Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider “just went out one night with a baby book and a bunch of drinks,” she said, and settled on the tough, sexy “Taylor Dayne.”
Dayne found international fame in 1987 with the dance-pop hit “Tell It to My Heart,” the title track off of her doubleplatinum debut album. (It also featured the ballad “I'll Always Love You.”)
Her sophomore album, 1988’s “Can’t Fight Fate,” yielded the chart-topping singles “I’ll Be Your Shelter,” “Love Will Lead You Back” and “With Every Beat of My Heart.”
“I had an opportunity to work for the majors when people were buying records,” she recalled. “It’s a phenomenal feeling to put out a product and see people embrace it.”
After independently releasing her fourth studio album, “Naked Without You,” in 1998, Dayne branched out as an actress — making her Broadway debut in Elton John’s “Aida” and appearing in “Love Affair” and the television shows “Rescue Me” and “Rude Awakening.”
Her songs can be heard on the soundtracks of such films as “Flawless,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” and “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton.”
Dayne returned to the musical spotlight with her 2008 album “Satisfied,” featuring the dance single “Beautiful.” The singersongwriter admitted that the album’s title is somewhat of a non sequitur.
“I’ll never be comfortable, I’ll admit to that,” Dayne said. “That’s the challenge of loving who I am and where I am.”
She’s currently working on a “Greatest Hits” album featuring new recordings of her most popular songs. Her latest single, “Floor on Fire,” was released last week.
“My voice has a passion and a heartstring that pulls on people,” Dayne said. “It connects. That’s my job as an artist, to connect.”