Itís taken him rather longer that he might have expected, but singer-songwriter Adam Cohen has grown up.
The son of the legendary Leonard Cohen, all his life Adam had sought an artistic space beyond the reach of his fatherís looming shadow. But in January 2007, at the age of 34, Adam Cohen owned up to his legacy. After years of declining to sing in public so much as a single note written by his father or to participate in any tribute, on stage in Barcelona, Adam sang Leonardís classic song 'Take This Waltz' ó in Spanish.
"Barcelona in 2007 was the first time I ever played a Leonard Cohen song in public. Until then I hadnít so much as learned one on guitar. It was cathartic. My son Cassius was only a few months from being born, and embracing fatherhood was on my mind ó my father, and the father I was to be."
Intimate, romantic yet shrewdly reflective, Adamís songs on Like A Man evoke something of his father just as in any child you can discern the echo of the parent. But there is Adamís own unique and distinct voice and perspective too ó a plain-speaking style freighted with disarming candour.
"Like A Man is steeped in my recognizing that I am in the family business. Despite my efforts to carve out a different identity, really I belong to a long line of people who have embraced their fatherís business. And to have my father pronounce that I have world-class love songs on my record ó 'Like A Man' and 'What Other Guy' ó is a deeply gratifying compliment."
Until then, Adamís story has been one of good times, bad accidents and false starts. But always to a soundtrack. Born in Montreal, Canada in 1972 to Leonard Cohen and his then-wife Suzanne Elrod, Adam has been a musician ever since he could walk, "always banging on teacups and the backs of chairs, stomping my foot and trying to whistle." A home full of instruments encouraged Adamís "unabashed musical fearlessness" and, though only formally tutored on violin, he taught himself to play drums, piano and guitar "moderately well". Adam grew up immersed in Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman and Bob Marley albums, "unless I was hanging out with my dad when the turntable skewed more to Hank Williams, or, with my mother, to Marvin Gaye."
"I remember many times seeing my father in a T-shirt and underwear at the kitchen table strumming his guitar. Of course the circumstances under which I was brought up had an influence on me. I sometimes feel it even more profoundly now, when I catch my son watching me in a T-shirt and underwear strumming at the kitchen table myself."
After their parents split, Adam lived with his mother and younger sister, Lorca, in the South of France, being mostly schooled in Paris, the young Cohens growing up bilingual in English and French.
"My parents were good at imparting values through hands-off parenting. But my father made a gargantuan effort. During their divorce, when he visited he would camp out in an RV on the road at the end of our driveway because he wasnít allowed into the house."
At the age of 17, when roadying for a calypso band, Adam was involved in a near-fatal road accident in which he suffered a broken neck and nine broken ribs, a punctured lung and crushed abdomen, plus fractures to knees, ankles and pelvis which required the fitting of a prosthetic hip. For seven months he lay in hospital, including the landmark of his 18th birthday. During his most helpless three months, Adamís father attended his bedside every day to read to him.
Following his recovery, Adam spent two years studying for a BA in political and social sciences at Syracuse University in upstate New York before dropping out. Those years were a diversion from the path Adam was already sure was to be his destiny: music.
"There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to end up as a recording artist. This certainty permitted the detours. Iíd always written songs, and that none of them were very good until recently didnít stop me from writing."
Being the son of a musician who occupies that very ťlite club of unarguable living legends was always going to be a mixed blessing for anyone wishing to follow the same calling.
"I was able to raise eyebrows, and open doors with peopleís curiosity about me, for sure. But I also saw swift, and sometimes unforgiving judgement levied on my work and person."
Adam is not alone as a musician both helped and burdened by the legacy of legendary parents.
"I've spent time with Jakob Dylan and Sean Lennon. Chris Stills and I have long been close friends, and Rufus Wainwright is now part of my family ó he fathered my sisterís child. I can assure you there is no secret handshake in the 'sons of' club. Yes, we all inherited good names, and possibly even some talent. But when you're in a room alone, your last name is not writing songs for you or making good decisions for you. Stronger than your last name is your personal ability and strength to forge your own voice. Rufus, for example, really found his voice early. I came to mine embarrassingly late."
In 1998 Adam released his self-titled debut album on Columbia/Sony ó a record that sounded determined to make a splash on mainstream radio and MTV.
"Although I'm not embarrassed by the songwriting on my first record, I do believe the production choices were poor; I was chasing a sound that were not entirely my own. I was enamoured with very accomplished sounding records by seasoned veterans, and didn't understand how much my youth and lack of polish would've been great to capture honestly."
Six years later, Adam reappeared, as the singer, guitarist and front man of four-piece California rock band Low Millions, whose album Ex-Girlfriends referenced some real life former squeezes among its songs.
"Low Millions was not a misstep but a delay to me getting down to uncovering my true and unique voice. When youíre on the road in a rock band, sharing confined space, drinking and frolicking and piquing the interest of the opposite sex, there is a cameradie like no other. We toured the world for two years, had hits and made tons of money. It was wonderful, a rite of passage and the final phase in my true education in music."
One more diversionary project followed, the French-language album Mťlancolista featuring the occasional vocal assistance of the actress Virginie Ledoyen. And then, in the loving tongue that is Spanish, occurred those few minutes on stage in January 2007 when Adam came out as a Cohen.
"I was never terribly preoccupied with living up to my family name, and not until I was sitting at the dinner table with my father to my left and my two-year-old son to my right, did I realise I really wanted to, and was ready to."
"Before then, I really had given up on the music business. So, upon completion of Like A Man, my proudest artistic achievement yet, I was not only grateful to the team that helped me make the record, but also to the universe for giving me a chance to set the record straight, and exonerate me."