Finding Joni

Brian C. Poole
5 min readNov 27, 2022

Discovering new music can be a random process.

With the sheer volume of options and different barriers (both external and self-imposed), mere exposure to a song you might like requires a variety of factors to align. Missing out on something that might appeal to you occurs more than most people realize.

That can be especially true with tracks from a past era that could become a new (to you) favorite. Many people encounter songs through mediums other than those primarily geared toward music. Movies, television, video games, online content, ring tones, background music…many paths to exposure are well trod.

With current technology, once you’ve been exposed to a song, identifying it has become an easier task. Typing a few words of lyrics into a search engine can usually bring you to the right info in a minute or less. For many years, however, the identification process was far more difficult and provided anything but instantaneous results.

My serious introduction to Joni Mitchell is a case in point. By the early ’90s I certainly knew who Joni was, was aware of her legacy impact and influence on other artists. But beyond “Help Me,” “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Both Sides Now” (and the last more from the successful Judy Collins cover), I couldn’t say I knew much about her specific music. She was an artist whose popularity peaked in the few years before and after my birth. She was still around by my young adulthood, but the renaissance in popular interest in her work was still a few years away.

One summer evening I chanced to turn into a rerun of ABC’s late ’80s drama thirtysomething that aired on a basic cable channel. As often seems to work out, a Christmas-themed episode aired in July and featured in the background a haunting song about a river. It sounded older, that much was evident. I didn’t have a clear bead on the singer, at that point I didn’t know Joni’s voice well enough to identify her by ear. I stuck around for the closing credits, as thirtysomething was good about identifying the songs used in an episode. Unfortunately, as often happens with reruns, the credits were crammed into a small corner of the screen and rushed by at a pace that rendered them an indistinguishable blur.

The song had burrowed into my brain from just hearing snippets of it in the background, but my best…

Brian C. Poole

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting