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For some people, Cyndi Lauper's classic "True Colors" is just another love song. But as Lauper learned from reading fans' letters, for others the song's lyrics about letting "your true colors shine through" had a much deeper meaning.
"A lot of people were saying that when it came out [in 1986] they were teenagers and they were coming out," says Lauper, a longtime gay rights supporter. "They were disowned by their family and their friends, and their jobs got all messed up, and they were totally alone, and suicidal, and then they heard `True Colors' and it made them feel hopeful."
So it's fitting that Lauper, 53, is one of the headliners on the new "True Colors" tour, which will hit major cities nationwide to promote gay rights. Other performers for the 15-city event, which kicks off in Las Vegas on June 8 and ends in Los Angeles on June 30, are Deborah Harry, Erasure, and Margaret Cho.
"This tour is basically gonna be five hours of some of my favorite bands and me, and Margaret Cho making us laugh, and while we're touring, we're going to be raising awareness," Lauper told the Associated Press on Friday. "I think people don't know what's going on, that's all."
Besides headliners like Lauper and Harry, the show will have guest artists such as Rufus Wainwright in the various cities it hits. "Every time I talk to a band they're like, `I want to go!' " says Lauper with a laugh.
The tour, sponsored by the gay TV cable network Logo, will provide information to fans who attend as well as purple wristbands with the slogan "Erase Hate" from the Matthew Shepard Foundation, named for the Wyoming college student murdered in 1998. A dollar from every ticket sold will be earmarked for the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Lauper believes more Americans would be supportive of equal rights for gays if they knew the discrimination they faced. "You shouldn't have to be treated badly because of your sexual orientation. Come on, we don't live in a dictatorship. This is supposed to be America, the home of the free and the brave," she says. "It can't be free for some and not for others."
Other stops on the tour are Salt Lake City; Denver; Chicago; Atlantic City, N.J.; Boston; Washington; New York City; Toronto; Atlanta; Dallas; Houston; San Diego; and San Francisco. (Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP)