(CNN) Daryl Dragon, one half of popular ’70s duo The Captain & Tennille, died Wednesday, according to his publicist Harlan Boll. He was 76.
Dragon, whose ever-present captain’s hat left no doubt about which half of the duo he was, died of renal failure in Prescott, Arizona, Boll said. “He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly,” Toni Tennille said in a statement. “I was at my most creative in my life when I was with him.”
Tennille was at Dragon’s side when he passed away, Boll said.
The duo’s best-known songs included “Muskrat Love,” “Do That to Me One More Time” and “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
Dragon, a classically trained pianist, was most at home behind the keyboard. One of his early gigs was as a backup musician for the Beach Boys in the mid-’60s.
Dragon and Tennille met in 1971 when she hired him to play piano for a musical called “Mother Earth.” They married in 1975, a year after they signed a deal with A&M Records. Their first album produced the hit single “Love Will Keep Us Together,” which enjoyed multiple weeks atop the Billboard chart.
Dragon and Tennille separated in 2013 and finalized their divorce in 2014. They remained close friends.
Dragon is survived by his older brother, Doug Dragon, and two nieces, Kelly Arbout and Renee Henn.
Boll asked that any donations being made in Dragon’s name be made to organizations doing research into brain diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Captain & Tennille were American recording artists whose primary success occurred in the 1970s. The husband-and-wife duo were “Captain” Daryl Dragon (August 27, 1942 – January 2, 2019) and Toni Tennille (born May 8, 1940). They have five albums certified gold or platinum and scored numerous hits on the US singles charts, the most enduring of which included “Love Will Keep Us Together”, “Do That to Me One More Time”, and “Muskrat Love”. They hosted their own television variety series on ABC in 1976–77.
In 1972, Toni Tennille was the co-writer of an ecology-themed musical, Mother Earth. At that time, Daryl Dragon (son of composer Carmen Dragon) was working as a keyboardist for the Beach Boys. When Tennille’s show was preparing to move from San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Theatre to Southern California’s South Coast Repertory, a call was put out for a replacement keyboardist. Dragon was between tours when he heard about the opening, met Tennille in San Francisco to audition, and landed the gig.
Dragon later reciprocated by recommending Tennille to the Beach Boys when the band needed an additional keyboardist, and they hired her. She toured with them for a year, and has since been known as The Beach Boys’ one and only “Beach Girl.”
Realizing their collaborative potential when the tour was over, Tennille and Dragon began performing as a duo at the now-defunct Smokehouse Restaurant in Encino, California. They started to become popular in the Los Angeles area, and their early version of the Tennille-penned “The Way I Want to Touch You” became popular on a local radio station. This led to a recording contract with A&M Records.
Their first hit single, a rendition of Neil Sedaka’s and Howard Greenfield’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart nine weeks after its 1975 debut, and went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. It sold over 1 million copies and was awarded a Gold disc by the RIAA on July 1, 1975. Tennille paid tribute to Sedaka in the recording when she sang the overdub “Sedaka is back” at the outro. The duo successfully mined the Sedaka songbook a number of times over their chartmaking career. Two of their other hit singles were the Sedaka co-writes “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” and “You Never Done It Like That”. Their Spanish recording of “Love Will Keep Us Together”, “Por Amor Viviremos”, also charted in 1975; it was the first time two versions of the same single charted simultaneously. Tennille and Dragon included renditions of several other Sedaka songs on their albums.
Tennille and Dragon married on November 11, 1975 (not on Valentine’s Day 1974, as is often erroneously reported, for example, on the February 14, 1976 edition of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40).