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Adam Cohen enjoying career high at the same time as poet father, Leonard

Adam Cohen, son of legendary Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, is shown in a handout photo. The 39-year-old also released an album after a seven-year-plus layoff of his own, and the musical reinvention “Like a Man” is his most acclaimed work to date. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

TORONTO - Leonard Cohen has been enjoying such a charmed year musically that it's hard to imagine how even the masterfully morose poet could locate a downside in 2012.

His first album in more than seven years, "Old Ideas," became his first to top the charts in Canada en route to platinum sales, and caused critics to collectively lose their breath. Meanwhile, the 77-year-old Montreal-born singer won the prestigious Glenn Gould Prize and the inaugural PEN songwriting prize while charting an ambitious globe-spanning tour for the second half of the year.

Well, it's been a heady year for Leonard's son, Adam, as well. The 39-year-old also released an album after a seven-year-plus layoff of his own, and the musical reinvention "Like a Man" is his most acclaimed work to date. In the coming weeks, he'll open for the likes of Bob Dylan, Norah Jones and Rufus Wainwright.

But his own success aside, he's enjoying his father's renaissance as much as anyone.

"I do think it's a coincidence, but at the same time, I also know that to be in his wake is a delicious and satisfying occurrence," says the younger Cohen in a telephone interview this week from Montreal, where he's in rehearsals.

"I've often said that what I think is the distinguishing trait with my father is that he remains to me pertinent and anything but a nostalgia act. It gives me great pleasure to bear witness."

In fact, it was his father who in part inspired Adam Cohen's late-career left-turn.

He issued his self-titled debut back in 1998, and in 2004 followed with a French-language album, as well as a disc as frontman of the alt-rock outfit Low Millions.

None of the records gained much traction, and he's now quick to question his own artistic priorities during those fledgling stages of his career.

"I was so preoccupied with trying to play in the highest ranks of pop music," he says. "My esthetic goals were tight jeans, four chords and sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. I wasn't focused on the art."

Eventually, things started to seem dire. He contemplated quitting music altogether.

"I thought that I had basically tried and failed, and that I was already on the outs," he says. "When you're relegated to scoring porno flicks, writing for others, pitching for movies and commercials, a certain reality does dawn on you."

The whole time he had the songs that comprise "Like a Man" in his back pocket. He'd been hesitant to record them — in part because of how closely they hewed to his dad's classic work — a mistake he now considers "tragic."

So what changed his mind? When he became a father himself, he began to reconcile his relationship to his own dad's music, or as he puts it, the "family business." Afraid of the perception of nepotism, he had always shunned those influences that would inevitably creep into his music.

Now, the intimate, spare "Like a Man" invites those comparisons.

"This record is a claiming of an identity, an embrace and a declaration of belonging," he says. "And also, it's a coming of age record. It's reconciling where I've been with where I want to be.

"I thought carving out a path for myself meant outside of the family farm," he adds. "I found my place is much more true within it."

He's now accepting more and more gigs with overt connections to his father. At the reception for the Glenn Gould Prize in May, he brought the all-star show at Toronto's Massey Hall to a close with a rousing singalong take on his father's 1967 hit "So Long, Marianne."

He's accepted other similar gigs, where his role is simply to pay tribute to his dad. He once would have resisted offers like that, and now he says he's making up for lost time.

"It's a kind of compensation for how categorically I used to decline all of those offers," he says.

"Now I'm finding such joy in it. I want to celebrate the guy while he's still around."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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