In this gospel-infused R&B song, Mariah Carey cries out to God with the prayerful lyric, "Fly like a bird, take to the sky, I need you now Lord, carry me high!" It was released as the fourth US single from her 10th studio album, The Emancipation Of Mimi.
Carey wrote and produced this with James "Big Jim" Wright, whom she met through her frequent collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Carey and Wright had just finished another track, "Circles," during a songwriting session in the Bahamas when a new melody suddenly popped into Carey's head. She chased Wright down before he left and begged him to stay and work on a new song, which became "Fly Like A Bird." He laid down the live instrumentation in New York, and Carey recorded her vocals at a studio in Capri in Naples, Italy.
"I stayed secluded in the studio for two days working on the backgrounds," she recalled in her 2020 memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey. "I was lost in a song that would eventually be one that would often help me find my way out of the shadows. I worked through the night, so it was dawn when the song was ready for me to listen to all put together. I opened up the big sliding glass doors of the studio, stepped out into the morning air, and looked at the majestic cliffs jutting out of the sapphire sea as the song came pouring out of the booming speakers. The sun was rising as the background vocals were peaking: 'Carry me higher! Higher!' I closed my eyes, knowing God had laid His hand on the song and on me."
Carey enlisted her pastor Clarence Keaton to recite two Bible verses on the recording. The first, in the introduction, is Psalm 30:5: "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." The second, prior to the bridge, references Hebrews 13:5: "He said He'll never forsake your leave you alone. Trust Him." Carey said the verses helped her get through tough times in her life and she wanted to include them in the song to give her fans a hopeful message.
This peaked at #19 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Carey flew like a bird to #1 on the albums chart with The Emancipation Of Mimi, her first chart-topper since 1997's Butterfly. In her memoir, Carey said Butterfly was an emotional awakening, but Mimi was a "spiritual evolution."
The album was named Best Contemporary R&B Album at the Grammy Awards in 2006, where Carey also took two trophies for "We Belong Together
" (Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song). She also performed "Fly Like A Bird" at the ceremony.