While their pairing was professionally and critically successful, the two clashed over sound, contracts and payments Averne said. “‘Unfinished Masterpiece’ was a war between Eddie and I,” Averne said. Palmieri, now 86, declined to comment.
In 1976, the two parted ways, and Averne turned his focus to albums from Eydie Gormé and Machito, as well as records with Cortijo y Su Combo Original. By the end of the decade, though, Coco was over, done in by financial issues, Averne said.
His final foray in the record business was as a partner in the disco-focused Prism Records (a forerunner to hip-hop label Cold Chillin’ Records), during which time he met a young Madonna. (He said he still has some of her earliest demos.)
In the early ’80s, his career at labels over, Averne fell into a dark period.
“Everything crumbled,” he said. “I wasn’t even answering the phone for a couple years.”
When Carlos Vera, a D.J. and boogaloo enthusiast who has worked closely with Averne in recent years, first met Averne in the 2010s, “He wasn’t taking care of himself,” he said, and the younger man traveled from his home on the Upper West Side to Averne’s apartment in Queens several days a week. He helped Averne renovate his apartment, organized his ephemera and got him online. “I pushed him to eat well and take better care of himself. It took me a long time to convince him.”
Today, Averne is in better spirits. “I’m still making money from music,” he said. “I still own my own publishing and I’ve written more than 50 songs.” Mostly, he’s retired. “I had the feeling of ‘Harvey, you did it. You proved yourself to yourself.’”