Mariah's "Hero" and its 9-11 connection
Saturday 11 September 2004
When it was first released as a single, Mariah Carey's "Hero" became an instant
inspirational classic. But since the tragic events of September 11, its impact
has become even greater. It has re-emerged as one of the inspirational, heartfelt
songs which have provided comfort and hope to many people during the terrorist crisis.
"Hero" was written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff in 1992, and was originally conceived
as a theme song for the movie, Hero (starring Dustin Hoffman), which would potentially
be sung by Gloria Estefan. "I had been asked by Sony's soundtrack division to write and
produce the end, title theme for Hero," recalled Afanasieff. "Soon after, when I was in
New York working in the studio with Mariah, I suggested we try to write a song for this
movie. During a studio break, I was tinkering at the piano, playing the notes that would
become the piano intro to Hero. Mariah liked what she heard, and we started writing the
song, with the Hero theme in mind. She sang, 'Then a hero comes along.' She was truly
inspired; the words just flowed out."
It was during this writing session that Sony Music President and COO Tommy Mottola
(who was Carey's fiance at the time) came into the studio and heard "Hero". "I told
Tommy we were writing a song for this movie," said Afanasieff. "He said, 'Stop, this
song is brilliant. We need to save this song for Mariah's album. We decided to keep
it for ourselves, and we recorded it for her Music Box album. As for the Hero film,
Luther Vandross ultimately wrote and recorded the end title song."
Afanasieff produced "Hero" with Carey, and he performed all of the music tracks.
"When I recorded the track, I tried to simulate an orchestral sound with my synthesizers,"
explained Afanasieff. "There's a huge, timpani roll, a swell of strings, and french
horns, which were all done on keyboards. In the back of my mind, I thought we might
have an orchestra re-create the string parts. However, when Mariah completed her vocals,
she said the recording sounded fine just the way it was, and that we didn't need to
bring in an orchestra."
"Hero" was subsequently released as the second single from Music Box, and reached number
one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 25, 1993. It stayed atop the chart for
four weeks. Upon its initial release, "Hero" was quickly recognized as a unique,
inspirational song. At her Madison Square Garden concert in mid-December 1993, Carey
dedicated her performance of "Hero" to the victims and families of a tragic, Long Island
train shooting which had occurred on December 7. She also donated proceeds from "Hero"
to the victim's families. In 2001, Carey's performance of the song was a focal point of
the New York telethon, America: A Tribute To Heroes.
Over the years, "Hero" has been regarded as one of Carey's most significant and memorable
recordings. "It has become a song which has given a lot of meaning to people in times of
despair," said Afanasieff. "Mariah told me she has received thousands of letters from
people who were moved and helped by the song. For kids who were messed up on drugs, or
were contemplating suicide, the song helped give them hope and strength."
In the wake of September 11 tragedies, the song's impact has risen to a new level.
"The events of the world have resulted in certain songs [like "Hero"] being embraced
by people." explained Afanasieff. "Following September 11, everyone involved has truly
been a hero. All of the firemen, police and victims were heroes, as well as the military
personnel. We're always going to live in a world where there are tragedies. Everyday
someone has to be a hero."
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