Daryl Dragon of ’70s pop sensations Captain & Tennille died of renal failure Jan. 2 at a hospice in Prescott, Arizona, with former wife Toni Tennille by his side, according to his publicist, Harlan Boll.
He was 76.
More commonly known as the Captain, Dragon was a member of the Beach Boys from 1967 to 1972 before forming a duo with Tennille in 1974.
“He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly,” Tennille said in a statement. “I was at my most creative in my life when I was with him.”
Dragon and Tennille met in the early 1970s and soon began performing together, with Tennille singing and Dragon on keyboards. (He would later serve as Captain & Tennille’s producer.) Their breakthrough came in 1975, when they topped the Billboard Hot 100 with a cover of the Neil Sedaka-Howard Greenfield song “Love Will Keep Us Together,” which became the biggest-selling record of the year and won a Grammy for record of the year.
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Their best-known hits included “The Way I Want to Touch You,” “Lonely Night (Angel Face),” “Shop Around,” “Muskrat Love,” “You Never Done it Like That” and second chart-topper “Do That To Me One More Time.” They also briefly starred in their own television variety show before their careers faded in the 1980s.
Dragon and Tennille divorced in 2014 after nearly 40 years of marriage. But if love couldn’t keep them together, it did keep them close enough for Tennille to move back to Prescott to care for Dragon in 2017.
MORE: Captain & Tennille back in Arizona, but not back together
In 2016, Tennille published “Toni Tennille: A Memoir,” which presented their marriage as far removed from their cheerful hits. They wed in 1974, but Tennille recalled that their marriage was announced in advance – and to their surprise – by their record company. The couple, who had been living together, made it official in November of that year.
Tennille would allege that the marriage suffered from lack of intimacy and blamed it on what she described as Dragon’s “very, very difficult family” and “famous but overbearing father.”
A Los Angeles native, Dragon was the son of Oscar-winning composer Carmen Dragon and singer Eloise Dragon and was himself a classically trained musician. Before he was with Tennille, he played keyboards for the Beach Boys and was dubbed “The Captain” by singer Mike Love, who noted Dragon’s fondness for sea captain caps.
He is survived by his older brother, Doug Dragon, and two nieces, Kelly Arbout and Renee Henn.
Original Beach Boys member Brian Wilson tweeted that he’s “so sad to hear about Daryl Dragon,” adding that he “was a great guy and a hell of a musician and keyboard player.”
Singer/songwriter Sedaka, who first recorded “Love Will Keep Us Together” with Greenfield, offered his sympathies to Tennille and Dragon’s family.
“#RIP Daryl Dragon, The Captain, a great musician, keyboard player and friend for over 40 years. He took ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’, made it his own with the magic of his playing and her incredible voice,” Sedaka tweeted.
The Recording Academy added that Dragon “will be missed by family, friends, and fans.”
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, The Associated Press