Carey claims this was intended for the 1992 Dustin Hoffman movie, also called Hero. The producers of the movie used Luther Vandross' "Heart Of A Hero" instead. Walter Afanasieff explained in Fred Bronson's Book of Billboard #1s that the original intention was that Gloria Estefan would be asked to sing the title theme. He was recording the Music Box album with Carey at the time, and during a break he, "was sitting at the piano and told Mariah about this movie. Within two hours, we had this incredible seed for this song, 'Hero.'" Afanasieff added: "It was never meant for Mariah to sing. In her mind, we were writing a song for Gloria Estefan for this movie. And we went into an area that Mariah didn't really go into - in her words, it was a little bit too schmaltzy or too pop ballady or too old-fashioned as far as melody and lyrics."
When it was nearly finished, they played the song to the president and COO of Sony Music Entertainment and Carey's fiancé Tommy Mottola, (later her husband), explaining that it was a song for the film Hero. Afanasieff recalled that Mottola responded, "Are you kidding me? You can't give this song to this movie. This is too good. Mariah, you have to take this song. You have to do it."
A limo driver named Chris Selletti sued Carey, claiming he wrote the lyrics and has them in an envelope he mailed to himself in 1990. His suit was dismissed in court, but Selletti claimed he would open the envelope on live TV to prove his case.
Carey sang this with opera singer Luciano Pavarotti at the 1999 benefit concert, "Pavarotti and Friends For Guatemala and Kosovo."
Carey recorded a live version for the album Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute
This was produced and arranged by Walter Afanasieff, who also wrote the music. Carey wrote the lyrics.
This was released shortly after Carey married Sony Music President Tommy Mottola. They divorced four years later.
Carey didn't like this song at first, feeling it was too sappy. After receiving letters from fans claiming it touched their lives, she came to realize it was a very powerful song and appreciate it for the feelings it brings out in people.
Carey later said it was one of her favorite songs to perform. She explained on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen: "It's usually the last song I do if I do it, and everybody's holding up their lighters or their phones and I get a little bit emotional."
"I'm like, 'How many times have I done this song?'" Carey continued. "But there's always a specific person out there that has a specific memory associated with the song and I wrote it, so it makes me proud."
On December 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson started shooing people on a Long Island Railroad train, killing six and injuring 19. Carey, who grew up in Long Island and rode that train often, dedicated this song to the victims.
Carey performed this on the 2001 "Tribute To Heroes" telethon for the victims of the terrorist attacks in the US. It was Carey's first public appearance since her nervous breakdown a month earlier.
Included on the 2001 benefit album God Bless America, which helped the Twin Towers Fund.
This was covered by the 12 finalists of the fifth series of the United Kingdom music talent show The X-Factor for a charity single. Each contestant took it in turns to section of the track. All proceeds went to the British Legion charity Help for Heroes. The song leapt to the top of the UK chart and 313,244 copies were sold in its first week of release, more than the remainder of the top 10 combined.
In 2015, this was used in a commercial for the video game Game of War: Fire Age. In the spot, a battle rages and a knight pulls out his smartphone to summon help, which arrives in the form of reinforcements accompanied by this song. A dragon enters, and is shot from they sky by... Mariah Carey, who puts down her crossbow and delivers the line, "Time to be heroes, guys."