09/28/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
Adam Cohen's soft tenor is strikingly different from the creaky baritone of his father, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. And he's probably too fashion-forward to shave his head and become a Buddhist monk like Dad, who lives part-time in a Zen monastery outside Los Angeles. Still, the pair are united in their love of music. "It is wonderful to have this commonality between father and son," says Leonard, 63. "But he is 10 times the musician that I am. He can sing."
And dream. "I am the son of someone who contributed something very important to his field," says Adam, 25. "I feel compelled to do the same." He recently wrapped up his first U.S. summer tour and, in July, released his debut album, Adam Cohen, to critical applause. The New York Times called him a "highly expressive vocalist" who "deserves points for...infusing some passion into a moribund folk-pop tradition."
The Montreal native taught himself to play guitar, drums and piano by age 12. "He was always making curious sounds with his mouth. I was tempted at times to slam him with a baseball bat," jokes Leonard, who split with Adam's mother, painter Suzanne Elrod, in the mid-'70s.
After working as a roadie in 1990 and studying international relations at Syracuse University, Adam moved to L.A. in 1994 to make it in music. Signed by Columbia Records in 1996, he now lives in a one-bedroom L.A. bachelor pad and has high hopes. "My challenge," he says, "is to have people ask my kids about me, instead of about my dad."