Daryl Dragon, the keyboard-playing “Captain” of Seventies hitmakers Captain and Tennille, died at a hospice in Prescott, Arizona on Wednesday. Associated Press reports the cause of death as renal failure. He was 76.
As Captain and Tennille, Dragon and his then-wife Toni Tennille scored a string of catchy, easy-rolling hits in the mid-Seventies, including the Grammy-winning, Number One hit “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “The Way I Want to Touch You,” “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” and “Muskrat Love.” Dragon was known for wearing a captain’s hat and playing multilevel keyboards, as Tennille sang the hits and played her own keyboards. All but two of the albums they released in the Seventies were certified gold or platinum.
“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.” She was by his side at the time of his death.
Dragon was born on August 27th, 1942 in Los Angeles, the son of classical composer and conductor Carmen Dragon and singer Eloise Dragon. With music in his blood, he went on to learn the piano, organ, vibes, synthesizer and bass. Beginning in the late Sixties, he toured with the Beach Boys as the group’s keyboard player; it was that group’s Mike Love who gave him the nickname the Captain.
He met Tennille when he joined the house band of a rock musical Tenille had co-written, Mother Earth, as part of L.A.’s South Coast Repertory Theater. After it closed, he hired her to play keyboards with the Beach Boys alongside him.
In 1974, they produced and paid for their own single, the slow-building “The Way I Want to Touch You,” which was a regional hit. They followed it with “Love Will Keep Us Together” the next year. The song became a runaway hit and won them the record of the year Grammy and sold more than 2.5 million copies. They married on November 11th, 1975. Their hits dominated the Top 10 for much of the mid-Seventies, and they closed out the decade with the light-rock torch song “Do That to Me One More Time,” another Number One hit. At their peak, they hosted their own primetime show on ABC, but the hits fizzled out in the 1980s. They released their last album, The Secret of Christmas, in 2007.
The couple moved to Nevada, and Dragon continued to produce albums and work on film scores. They continued to perform together intermittently in the years that followed, but Tennille filed for divorce in 2014. At the time, her filing referenced health insurance coverage and previously, in 2010, she’d written that Dragon was living with a Parkinsonian neurological condition that caused harsh tremors, preventing him from playing the keyboards. They remained on good terms after the divorce, and she later moved to Arizona to care for him.
“A great musician, keyboard player and friend for over 40 years,” musician Neil Sedaka wrote on Twitter. “He took ‘Love Will Keep Us Together,’ made it his own with the magic of his playing and her incredible voice.”