Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 20, 2011

Poppa Bobby Dylan (plus original song: Prisoner)

A great record and documentary that were both a long time in the making, like a "slow train coming".

I decided this week, after 45 years of denial and being misled by my mother, that Bob Dylan is my real father. (How could you, Mom!?!)

What– other than genetics –could one explain such odd traits held in common as these?, in quotes taken from Stacey Williams’ liner notes on Poppa Bob’s first record in 1962:

1) “After seeing many (Charlie) Chaplin films, Dylan found himself beginning to pick up some of the gestures of the classic tramp…” (Note: I acquired a life-size Chaplin poster at around age 10, at Disney World… what kind of weird ten-year-old was into Chaplin in 1975?)


2) “Yet despite his comic flair, Bob Dylan has a curious preoccupation with death.”
(Them that knows me will attest that I am subject to wild swings between agony and ecstasy, that I have always had the melancholy wonderings and wanderings of a fellow forever conscious that we’re only “passing through” here).

So, …I could cite other parallels from throughout my own life and Poppa Bobby’s, but that would just be me lacking confidence again, trying to convince you of what is just too obvious to deny. I’m not gonna do that. I know the truth, and don’t need to prove myself to anyone anymore.

Look it up for yourself. I’m sure Bob was here in Chicago in late ’64. And we all know Mom has always had a thing for brooding, brilliant, dark-eyed men (Jew, Italian, Black Irish… what’s the diff?). It’s just her Catholic guilt that has kept her from fessing up about the truth: that she was a folk groupie who had a backstage, post-show tryst at the Earl of Old Towne coffeeshop with this weirdo wanna-be bluesman from Duluth, Minnesota.

It’s okay, Mom. I forgive you, and so does Jesus.

The iconic first LP, 1962. Note the resemblance to Mark.

Therefore, I will from now on follow in my REAL father’s footsteps. (Sorry, Brice… and BTW thanks for raising me.) I will continue to write and publish strange, rambling poetry and songs that look unflinchingly at the truth, but as if through the wrong end of a telescope.

I will sometimes rhyme, sometimes not. I will usually make life decisions in a similar fashion. I will croon, howl, and grunt my way through the second half of my life, alternately grateful that I have another day to give it a go, and pissed off at everyone who keeps throwing obstacles in my way.

And when I die, I want at least two Bob Dylan songs played, maybe even sung, at my funeral. I have not decided which two yet. Stay tuned. Current favorites are “Masters of War” (maybe the Pearl Jam cover version from Dylan’s Columbia Records 40th Anniversary concert CD), and “Saved” (probably Bob’s own original studio version, unless of course my family wants to go out and find a 20-person gospel choir to do a true black gospel version of it, like the great version on the 2003 CD “Gotta Serve Somebody”, featuring Aaron Neville, Shirley Caesar, and some great Chicago, L.A. and Southern gospel choirs.)

Finally, in the spirit of my old man, I present below the lyrical offering that I half-dreamed in the morning twilight today. Admittedly, in my dream it was John Mayer and my friend, Christian singer-songwriter Jim Croegaert, who were writing this song. But it was MY subconscious, so I’m just gonna have to steal it from those more talented guys. Poppa Bob did it first, though. He only writ two of the thirteen songs on his debut album: Talkin’ New York, and Song To Woody.

Which reminds me: Woody Guthrie is my grandpa.

* * * * *


What if I can’t …break …free?
What if I have to accept this is my destiny?
Who will come re-scue …me?
Who even hears me way down in this deep well … of misery?

I don’t deserve any better than this.
I’m sorry I messed it up, except I don’t know what I did.
But I’ll never do it …a-gain
I learned my lesson, I’ll be good,
I’ll try to love you like you think I should.

BIG BLUES RIFF (a’ la Buddy Guy)


This love is like a comfy prison.
I really need to need it.
Who am I if I’m not with you?
And why am I scared to feel it?
To step out from these prison doors,
I cannot make the choice.
To speak up finally for myself
When long ago… I lost my voice.

What if I can’t …make …bail?
What if my lot in life is to always fail?
I have … 20/20 blindness :
I don’t even know what to do
When somebody shows me kindness.

But I’m getting out to-day.
I’ll be stumbling toward home, maybe that’s the only way.
I’m gonna break these chains
I’ll ask the stars which way to walk,
And I’m never comin’ back again!

Chorus (alt wording at end)

This love is like a comfy prison,
I really need to need it.
Who am I if I’m not with you?
And why am I scared to feel it?
To step out from these prison doors,
I finally made the choice.
To speak up finally for myself,
to scream it at the top of my voice.

I lost my voice.

Where is my voice, what do I want?

But I’ll make some noise,

till I find my voice . . . again.

[Howl variants of above 2x or 3x over extended Jimi-style angry guitar solo.]



  1. Nicely done – or dreamed – Mark.

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