In early 1975, Toni Tennille and her husband, Daryl Dragon, were sitting in an office at A&M Records, trying to come up with one more song to complete their first LP. Kip Cohen, head of the company’s A&R department, played them a cut from [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Neil Sedaka[/lastfm]‘s recent album, Sedaka’s Back. The couple immediately knew it was right for them. “The minute I heard it,” Toni remembers, “I knew we would do a number on it.”
They already had, actually. In real life. The title was “Love Will Keep Us Together,” and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Captain and Tennille[/lastfm] had been together constantly for five years. In fact, Toni was known to boast that they’d never been apart for more than twelve hours in that whole time.
They’d met in 1970 when Toni was looking for a piano player for a rock-ecology musical she had co-written, Mother Earth. Daryl, just back from touring as a keyboardist with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beach Boys[/lastfm], answered the ad. From that point the two were professionally and romantically inseparable.
Their first song together, a minor hit which helped win them a contract with A&M Records, was written by Toni about their relationship. It was titled “The Way I Want to Touch You.” True romance (Authors’ note: “The Way” was later re-released and became the duo’s second Top 10 hit).
But when it came time to select a cut from their album to release as their first single, they almost passed over the obvious choice. They’d also recorded a powerful tune written by fellow Beach Boy Bruce Johnston (by this time, Toni had toured with them, too) called “I Write the Songs,” and the Captain was leaning toward that one. Manager Richard Burkhart did not agree. Burkhart said, “They were both great songs, but ‘I Write the Songs’ starts out with the line, ‘I’ve been around forever.’ I thought it might sound a little egotistical for an unknown group to come out saying that. I mean, no one knew what a Tennille was. On the other hand, ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ really was Daryl and Toni. They weren’t faking it. I pushed for that one.”
Burkhart got his way, and the Sedaka tune was released. It was the perfect choice; their personal theme song, and a #1 record. That’s not all! It was the theme song of their brief TV series, and won the 1975 GRAMMY as Record of the Year.
Captain & Tennille “Love Will Keep Us Together”
A sign of how important the singers were to popularizing this song: it seemed so tailored for the Captain and Tennille that no one thought to ask what it was really about. Actually, it had a very different origin. For over twenty years, Neil Sedaka had co-written songs with his high school buddy, Howard Greenfield. Their hits included “Oh! Carol,” “Calendar Girl,” and “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” An amazing record. But by 1973 their Midas touch had worn off and they decided to break up the team. “We had our little parting of the ways,” Sedaka recalls, “and our last song together was called ‘Love Will Keep Us Together.’ It was actually written about us and our collaborating.”
FOR THE RECORD. Sedaka put the song on his comeback album, but decided not to release it as a single. He was living in London in 1975 when someone sent him the Captain and Tennille version. “I fell down,” he says. “I called the kids in. I said, ‘Do you wanna hear probably the most perfect pop record?’ It was an incredible record. I made the grave mistake of not putting it out myself after ‘Laughter in the Rain.’. . . I chose ‘The Immigrant,’ which made Top 20, but it was not ‘Love Will Keep Us Together.’” Consolation prize. At the end of the Captain and Tennille version, Toni sings “Sedaka is back.” The line was thrown in during rehearsal, and they kept it in as a tribute to Neil, adding applause from the A&M secretaries who were in the studio to provide the song’s clapping tracks.
The Captain, Tennille, and EVERYBODY!