They whirled and they twirled and they tangoed through the ‘70s as the hit musical duo Captain & Tennille. And when “Captain” Daryl Dragon died Wednesday night in Prescott, Ariz., his longtime musical partner was by his side.
“He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly,” Toni Tennille said in a statement, reports Rolling Stone. “I was at my most creative in my life, when I was with him,” she said.
Dragon died of kidney failure, according to his publicist Harlan Boll.
The musical duo began performing together in the early 1970s. Their first breakout hit, a cover of the Neil Sedaka-Howard Greenfield song “Love Will Keep Us Together,” shot to the top of the charts in the summer of 1975. The single won them a Grammy Award for Best Record of the Year. The song’s success helped revive the career of Sedaka, whose 1975 single “Bad Blood” went on to hit No. 1. Dragon was “a great musician, keyboard player and friend for over 40 years,” Sedaka wrote on Twitter. “He took ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ [and] made it his own with the magic of his playing and her incredible voice.”
Over the next several years, the hits kept coming, including “The Way I Want to Touch You,” “Lonely Night,” and “Muskrat Love.” They even hosted their own television variety series on ABC for one season from 1976 to 1977. Their last big hit was “Do That To Me One More Time,” peaking at No. 1 in 1980.
Dragon came from a musical family. According to the New York Times, his father, Carmen, was a composer and conductor; his mother, Eloise, was a soprano who sang for radio. Daryl Dragon himself was trained as a classical pianist.
Dragon got his “captain” moniker as a keyboardist with The Beach Boys, which he performed with from 1967-1972. According to the Hollywood Reporter, lead singer Mike Love gave Dragon the nickname because he liked to wear a captain’s hat onstage. “Daryl was a great guy and a hell of a musician,” wrote Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson on Twitter.