While writing "Hero," Mariah didn't connect to the style or sound of the song. During production of her third album, Mariah was approached by Epic Reocrds to write and record a song & release it on the soundtrack for the film, "Hero" starring Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis.
While Mariah was interested in the project, Tommy Mottola was adamant over allowing Mariah to take part in anything involving movies, fearing that it would hurt her career. Columbia Records felt uneasy about allowing Mariah contribute to another record label even though they are a branch of the same parent company, Sony.
Still interested in working for the movie, Mariah agreed to write the feature song for it, intended for singer Gloria Estefan. Mariah and Walter sat together in a New York studio and composed the song's melody, lyrics, and concept in 2 hours.
As the song's demo was completed, Tommy walked into the studio and after hearing the rough version of it, he became interested in the song and asked what project it belonged to. When Mariah said the song would be used for the film, Tommy convinced her the song was too good to be in a film and should keep the song for herself.
After making the decision to keep "Hero," Walter Afanasieff went back to the staff at Epic Records, letting them know that they failed to come up with a song for the soundtrack. Gloria Estefan never heard the song that was originally meant for her. The song that eventually ended up on the "Hero" movie soundtrack was "Heart of a Hero" which was written, produced, and recorded by late R&B singer, Luther Vandross.
"Hero" garnered generally mixed reviews from contemporary music critics. Nathan Brackett from Rolling Stone called Carey's vocal tone "golden" and regarded the song as a standard for weddings, funerals and singing auditions.
The Baltimore Sun critic J.D. Considine praised "Hero", writing "[Hero] is a lavish, soul-stirring ballad, the sort of thing other singers would pay Diane Warren to write." Additionally, she called its chorus "uplifting" and "soaring," following praise towards Carey's vocal performance.
The song received a mixed review from The Washington Post editor Mike Joyce, who while impressed, claimed it was not as good as competing ballads of the time. Paul Gettelmen of the Orlando Sentinel criticized the song, calling it a "rip-off" of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All."
Stephen Holden, another editor from Rolling Stone also noted an inspiration and similarity to "Greatest Love of All" and calling its lyrics "made up entirely of pop and soul clichés."
"Hero" was awarded and nominated for awards throughout the music industry. At the 12th ASCAP Awards, Carey took home the award for "Rhythm & Soul Songwriter."
The following year, at the 13th annual ceremony, "Hero" won Carey awards for "Rhythm & Soul Songwriter" and "Pop Songwriter." The song was awarded a BMI Pop Award at the ceremony in 1995.
Additionally, it was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 37th annual Grammy Awards, losing to Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do."
"Hero" was the subject of two copyright plagiarism cases; one by Christopher Selletti and the other by Rhonda Dimmer, filed in 1993 and 1996. Selletti claimed he had written the song's lyrics in the form of a poem.
One day, as he drove Sly Stone in a limousine to Long Island, he claimed to have shown him the poem. Selletti claimed Stone complimented the poem, taking it and promising to patent it and earn him royalties. After many months, the pair fell out of contact, leading Selletti to mail himself the envelope and poem, performing a "poor man's copyright."
Three years later in 1996, he claimed to have listened to Carey's album, "Music Box" and was shocked when he noted the song's similar lyrics. He filed a lawsuit against Carey, Stone, Sony and Stone's manager Jerry Goldstein. Selletti claimed that Stone must have sold or contributed the lyrics to Carey during the recording of the album in late 1992.
However, since Stone did not receive songwriting credits on "Hero", Selletti then dropped the suit against Stone, leaving him against Carey and Sony. Prior to their court room meeting, Carey told New York Daily News "I feel totally victimized. "Hero" is my creation and it holds a very special meaning to me. I have every intention of fighting this all the way."
In court, Carey provided evidence to her innocence, in the form of a dated lyrical and music notebook, with conceptual info on the song dated back to November 20, 1992, prior to Selletti's meeting with Stone. Additionally, Carey stated the fact that she had originally written it for the film, "Hero" alongside Afanasieff, making their connection or the involvement of his material impossible. Judge Denny Chin found Carey innocent, and ordered Selletti to pay her a fine.
Years later, after consulting with another lawyer, Selletti made another attempt at suing Carey and Sony. His lawyer, Jeffrey Levitt, who uncovered the fact that the film was released in October 1992, a full six weeks prior to the November 22 dating in Carey's notebook. Additionally, "Heart of a Hero" which was written by Luther Vandross for the film, was submitted in January 1992, making it impossible for "Hero" to have been the original choice of song for the soundtrack.
After uncovering further tapes from the studio dating to the summer of 1992, recordings provided evidence that Carey and Afansieff had indeed discussed and had parts of the song completed well before the film's October release.
Following the evidence from both parties, the judge dismissed the case, ruling in Carey's favor for the second time. Following the dismissal of the case, Rhonda Dimmie, another songwriter and an independent singer, filed a lawsuit against Carey, this time claiming the song to have borrowed heavily from her song, "Be Your Own Hero." During the short deposition made by Carey, Afanasieff revealed that they had written the song in two days during the summer of 1992, "within a matter of hours."
Soon after, the case was dismissed, with the judge claiming there to not be sufficient evidence on Dimmie's behalf. Following the lawsuits, in 2001, Selletti made further hints to plan another lawsuit, as well as a forensic team of specialists to conduct research on the incident.
Following the suits, Cindy Berger, Carey's publicist released the following statement: "This case has been thrown out of court three times. The federal judge after hearing Selletti's story and considering all the evidence ruled the case was a 'complete fabrication' and that it was filed 'to extort a settlement from deep-pocket defendants."
Prior to the song's release towards the end of 1993, Carey performed an intimate concert at Proctor Theatre, New York on July 15, 1993. Following its taping, the concert was released as the home video titled, "Here Is Mariah Carey" in 1993.
Carey's performance of the song that night was edited and commissioned as the official music video, directed by Larry Jordan. The video was included on Carey's DVD, "#1's" in 1998.The video features her in a long navy-blue dress, sporting long curly hair.
On few international versions of the album, a Spanish version of the song was included, such as on the Mexican and Argentinian versions. It was titled "Héroe", and featured translation by Jorge Luis Piloto, a Spanish musician who had come to briefly work with Carey.
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