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Haim on Their Lifelong Love of Joni Mitchell

‘Every year her songs take on new meanings, and that’s the beauty of Joni’

Joni Mitchell in New York, November 1968

Jack Robinson/Getty Images

For this year’s annual Women Shaping the Future issue, we asked 12 of today’s top musical acts to talk about the women who have inspired them most in their lives and careers.

The three sisters who make up Haim — Este, 35, Danielle, 33, and Alana, 29 — grew up on Joni Mitchell’s music, listening to her songs from the time they were kids in California’s San Fernando Valley. Mitchell has gone on to serve as a key inspiration for their own music (as heard most clearly on their 2020 homage “Man From the Magazine”) and their fearless approach to creativity.

Danielle Haim Miles of Aisles was the Joni Mitchell album that started our love affair, and it’s the one that I always go back to. It’s her live album from 1974. There’s a little bit of everything, songs from all her albums up until then, and she’s playing them with the L.A. Express, which was this amazing jazz band, backing her. That’s such a great canvas for her music.

Este Haim She was getting more into jazz in the Seventies, so the record is a reimagining of a lot of her early work through this jazz lens. Of course, when we first heard it, we weren’t thinking about any of that. We had gone with our mom to this record store in the Valley called Second Bin, which, unfortunately, I don’t think is around anymore.

Alana Haim I was around six. That was pretty much the only CD that was in our mom’s car — I don’t think she knew how to change the CD, so every time she turned on the car, that’s what would play. And because I was so young, and because my mom knew all the songs and would sing every word, I thought my mom was Joni Mitchell at one point. She knew every single run and every single melody on that record. It was the most inspiring thing.

Este Our mom played guitar and was not shy about singing, and thankfully, she has a really good voice. We saw our mom and how much she loved Joni, and that made us inherently love Joni that much more.

Danielle Around high school, when our friends were going through their first heartbreaks, I would see their moms be like, “Here, listen to Blue.” “A Case of You,” “River” — those songs were a lot of my friends’ first foray into Joni’s music.

Alana We got the gift of listening to her at such a young age, but as a six-year-old listening to Miles of Aisles, you don’t really understand what the lyrics mean. And then we kind of grew up with her. Every year her songs take on new meanings, and I think that’s the beauty of Joni — discovering new things in her music. I could listen to a song like “A Case of You” when I was in my early twenties, and that song has taken on a whole new meaning now that I’m almost 30.

Danielle Her views of rhythm have always been in our blood. I remember seeing an interview where she said she was trying to step away from trying to cram a bunch of words into a phrase — but that’s something about her songwriting that I love, because it’s so percussive and rhythmic.

Alana I relistened to Miles of Aisles just to get back into the zone recently, and that version of “Carey” brought me to a different place. The actual studio recording is incredible, but the version on Miles of Aisles is even more so.

Danielle My favorite album of hers might be Hejira. I’ve been on a “Coyote” kick for two years, but “Amelia” is my favorite now.

Este “People’s Parties” and “All I Want” were our favorite Joni songs in high school.

Danielle “People’s Parties” encapsulated what our social life was like, because our dad was strict. He wouldn’t let us go out that much, so I would be in my room listening to “People’s Parties,” dreaming that I was at some faraway party on a bender.

From Rolling Stone US