The "Love Will Keep Us Together" singer died of renal failure while in hospice in Prescott, Arizona on Wednesday

By Brianne Tracy
January 02, 2019 06:05 PM
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Daryl “Captain” Dragon — half of the legendary 1970s pop duo Captain & Tennille — has died.

The “Love Will Keep Us Together” singer died of renal failure while in hospice in Prescott, Arizona, on Wednesday, Dragon’s rep confirms to PEOPLE. He was 76.

Dragon’s ex-wife and musical partner, Toni Tennille, was by his side at the time of his death. The pair remained close despite their separation, and Tennille, 78, recently moved to Arizona to help care for Dragon.

“He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly. I was at my most creative in my life, when I was with him, Tennille tells PEOPLE in a statement.

In 2017, Dragon told PEOPLE that Tennille flew to his home in Arizona to be with him even after they divorced in 2014 after 39 years of marriage.

Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille
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Dragon was a keyboardist for the Beach Boys when he met Tennille at an audition for a musical revue she wrote in 1971.

“He was the one,” Tennille told PEOPLE in 2016. “And I always knew that he thought my talent was amazing. He would say things that were over-the-top as far as praising my abilities. I never met another man I thought could measure up to him.”

When Tennille and Dragon began collaborating and producing hits like “Muskrat Love,” “Shop Around” and “Do That to Me One More Time,” she said their chemistry was clear. In 1976, they won a Grammy for “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

“The thing we had that was wonderful was the music,” Tennille said. “I was inspired by him.”

The son of Hollywood composer Carmen Dragon and his singer wife, Eloise, Dragon was a gifted musician who used the Captain persona to hide his extreme anxiety, Tennille said. On their ABC series The Captain and Tennille, “he would say one word and get a standing ovation,” she recalled. “Everyone thought he was darling, the cutest thing there was.”

Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille
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Even as their peppy sound and odd-couple charm launched them to fame, behind the scenes, their relationship was strained. Dragon was “terrified,” said Tennille, that eating the “wrong” food would make him sick. In social settings with friends, “he would be over in a corner, and then he would just disappear,” she said. “We didn’t bicker about it because it wouldn’t have done a damn bit of good. He was what he was.”

Tennille also said Dragon suffered from megalophthalmos, a condition which results in large eyeballs and forced him to wear ever-present sunglasses.

“When Daryl was a kid, even though his eyes were beautiful, they would make fun of him and call him ‘Martian,'” she said. “I would feel bad for Daryl, because fans would come up and say, ‘Take your glasses off.’ It was awful.”

Despite their ups and downs, Tennille called their divorce “amicable.”

In February 2017, Dragon responded to a report about his deteriorating health by telling PEOPLE that while he was not under hospice care, he “did have some non-professional caregivers working for me that made many mistakes with the dosage of my medications which were prescribed by my personal physician” the year prior.

Those errors, along with sedatives Dragon was taking to help him sleep, culminated in what he called a “very bad experience with side effects.”

At the time, Dragon said his caregivers were discharged and that he had been showing great improvement thanks to Tennille.

Dragon is survived by his older brother Doug, two nieces Kelly McBride and Renee Henn, as well as four nephews, Quincy Carroll, Paul Henn, Cody Dragon and Jack Dragon.