Daryl Dragon, of ‘The Captain and Tennille,’ dies at 76
NEW YORK — Daryl Dragon, the “Captain” half of the pop duo the Captain & Tennille, whose string of soft-rock hits in the 1970s included “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Muskrat Love,” died Wednesday in Prescott, Ariz. He was 76.
His former wife and singing partner, Toni Tennille, announced his death through a publicist, who said the cause was renal failure.
The Captain & Tennille, whose specialty was romantic ballads featuring Tennille’s silky voice, reached the Top 10 seven times between 1975 and 1979.
“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.”
Mr. Dragon’s stage name came from his days as a backup musician with the Beach Boys in the 1960s and early ‘70s, when he often wore a captain’s hat onstage. Mike Love, one of the group’s leaders, would introduce him to audiences as the “captain of the keyboards.”
He had been performing with the Beach Boys for several years before the hat made its fateful appearance.
“I just picked it up one night on the spur of the moment,” he told The Boston Globe in 1976, “and that night they spotlighted me in ‘Help Me Rhonda.’ It made a big hit, and I’ve been wearing it ever since.”
Daryl Dragon was born on Aug. 27, 1942, in Los Angeles. His father, Carmen, was a composer and conductor, and his mother, Eloise (Rawitzer) Dragon, was a soprano who sang on radio programs.
Mr. Dragon was trained in classical piano but didn’t take to it.
“I seemed to be at war with myself in my musical tastes,” he told The Globe. “I could appreciate the great compositions, but I also liked the boogie beat.”
He played in several bands in the 1960s before signing with the Beach Boys. He met Tennille in 1971 when he was brought in to play keyboards for the San Francisco run of an ecology-themed musical, “Mother Earth,” that she had co-written and in which she was performing. He in turn brought her onto a Beach Boys tour as a backup singer.
The two began performing together in nightclubs, and after they self-financed a demo they landed a record contract. Their cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together,” a song Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield had written and Sedaka had recorded in 1973, became a worldwide hit in 1975, reaching No.1 on the Billboard singles chart and winning the Grammy Award for record of the year. They kept turning out hits for the rest of the 1970s.
They also landed a television variety show on ABC as the network tried to duplicate the success Sonny and Cher had enjoyed with their own show earlier in the decade. But the series, which had its premiere in September 1976, lasted only one season. Mr. Dragon found the whole experience distasteful.
“Television is a great garbage disposal,” he said then. “It keeps grinding up artists like us and throwing them away.”
Mr. Dragon produced all 10 of the duo’s 10 albums. They continued to perform after their hit-making run ended in 1979 — “Do That to Me One More Time” was their last gold record — and Mr. Dragon produced other artists. Tennille, meanwhile, increasingly pursued solo projects.
The couple divorced in 2014. In 2016, Tennille published a memoir in which she wrote that their marriage had not been the idyllic partnership it had been made to seem.
Their record company, she wrote, falsely announced that they had married on Valentine’s Day 1975; to satisfy expectations, they married for real not long after.
“I can say without exaggeration that he showed no physical affection for me during our very long marriage,” she wrote.
She blamed it on what she described as Mr. Dragon’s ‘‘very, very difficult family and ‘‘famous but overbearing father.’’
“ ‘I kept trying and trying and thinking I could bring this man who has so much to give into the light,’’ she told NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show in 2016.
Mr. Dragon leaves a brother, Doug.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this obituary.