One Sweet Day
We merged the two songs together lyrically, and a bit melodically...
Written by Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff, Nathan Morris, Michael McCary, Shawn Stockman & Wanya Morris
Produced by Mariah Carey & Walter Afanasieff
4:41 Album Version
5:08 Live Version from Fantasy: Mariah Carey at Madison Square Garden
4:48 Sweet A Cappella
4:48 A Capella
4:51 Chucky’s Remix
ABOUT THE SONG
- "The song is about personal tragedies. It was the first time that I was forced to face the death of beloved people. I am sure that a lot of people would feel that this song is about them." "I wrote the initial idea for "One Sweet Day" with Walter, she explained, "and I had the chorus... I stopped and said, 'I really wanna do this with Boyz II Men', because... obviously I'm a big fan of theirs and I just thought that the work was crying out for them, the vocals that they do, so I put it away and said, 'Who knows if this could ever happen, but I just don't wanna finish this song because I want it to be our song if we ever do it together."
Originally, Mariah had an incomplete song. Mariah was writing the song in memory of her good friend and collaborator David Cole, who worked with Mariah on some of her albums and recently had died. Then Mariah discovered her song was quite similar to a song written by Nathan Morris from Boys II Men. His song was dedicated to a friend who was shot to death in 1992. Mariah explained, "I was kind of in shock for a minute. It seemed like the whole pairing was meant to be." Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men also commented, "We were kind of flipped about it ourselves. Fate had a lot to do with that. I know some people won't believe it, but we wouldn't make up such a crazy story.”
“Carey says the idea for ‘One Sweet Day’ was not inspired by the loss of one specific person in her life, but by several people she knew. ‘I told Walter [Afanasieff] the idea and started the usual process of me directing him as to what I’m hearing in my head and taking it from there — the two of us going to the bridge and developing the song. I had the first verse before I even sang it for Walter and the chorus was basically there. If I don’t have the hook off the top of my head, it usually takes me a long time to get it, but that was really there. And then I stopped, because I wanted to finish writing it with Boyz 2 Men.
Afanasieff elaborates, ‘At the time, Boyz 2 Men were the biggest thing out there. Through managers, we landed a meeting with the four guys to see if they would be interedted. They loved the song. Mariah was in the studio singing it as the track was playing. She was singing the melody and one of the guys started singing the counter melody.”
Nathan Morris of Boyz 2 Men was surprised at what he heard. “Mariah sang the verse she had already written. The lyrics and the idea and [a song I had written] coincided. Which was awkward, because I didn’t know she was writing a song that pertained to what I was writing as well. I told her I had a song I had written two months earlier which was in the same vein.” Afanasieff recalls what happened next: “We merged the two songs together lyrically, and a bit melodically, and that’s why they’re writers on the song.” - 2003 Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Page 843
- Doing ‘One Sweet Day’ with Boyz 2 Men which was, really I mean, that’s like just one of the high points of my career, definitely, I mean, the success we had with that song and just the people that tell me how that song changed their lives. I wrote the initial idea for One Sweet Day with Walter Afanasieff, who I’ve been working with for a long time, and when I did it and I had the chorus, I stopped and I said I really want to do this with Boyz 2 Men, because, you know, obviously I’m a big fan of theirs and I just thought the chorus was crying out for the vocals that they do. We contacted them, we went through all the channels, this and that, and we finally got together, sang them the song and Nate had written a song that was basically identical to my song in the theme and melodically - he could actually sing it over my song and it was really bizarro, it was like fate, so we put the two songs together and came up with ‘One Sweet Day.’ - #1s DVD Interview 1999
- I don't like people around me in the studio. I feel more freedom that way. I just don't like having a producer in the studio when I sing. Some people I don't mind, but generally I'd just rather do it by myself. I did a song with Boyz II Men on this album. Me and Wanya (Morris) get along well and we had a lot of fun together. He's crazy. He was over my house. We were doing an acapella version of this song. It's intimidating to sing with someone who's a great singer in your face. But he encouraged me and the vibe was good. Sometimes when you're with someone who's not a singer it's different because they don't know what you're going for.” - Blues & Soul (UK) Issue: October 24, 1995 “Daydream Believer” by Jeff Lorez
- The Billboard Hot 100's longest-running No. 1 is also one of R&B's most heart-wrenching ballads. "One Sweet Day," performed by Mariah and Boyz II Men, was inspired by personal loss and continues to be a record-breaking testament to the power of song. Esteemed songwriter (and longtime Carey collaborator) Walter Afanasieff and Nathan Morris (currently performing with the Boyz for their Las Vegas residency) recall their bittersweet memories of making the heavenly track.
Walter Afanasieff: While Mariah and I were writing the beginning stages of “One Sweet Day,” it became a very, very personal song to Mariah because of the subject matter. She was going through a very hard time; I believe it was because of her sister. There was a lot of fear that her sister was very ill and that she would lose her. From that place of loss or even just the potential for loss, she started to write these feelings about being in heaven on a sweet day, and seeing the person that you love once again.
Boyz II Men's Nathan Morris: The song is very universal. People take to that song for many different reasons, which makes sense because what it meant to us wasn't same thing it meant to Mariah -- even though we all did the song together. From our side, our emotional attachment was to our road manager Khalil Rountree, who had gotten murdered on the road with us. Mariah was coming from a different place, but it’s one of those songs where as long as the sentiment is the same, it doesn’t matter what the actual incident is or was.
Afanasieff: The thing about Mariah is that she’s a such a master melodist. Today, that’s commonly referred to as a "top-line writer." A top-line writer is someone who can start singing right off the bat. Mariah is such a gifted top-line writer that she can sing melodies and come up with lyric ideas on the spot, just as I’m playing chord progressions. We pretty much had the song written when the idea came to do it with Boyz II Men as a duet. She and Wanya were pretty good friends; we all knew each other. So the guys came over to the studio, which I believe was the Hit Factory in New York. We played the song, and the guys said it was funny because they had just had a similar idea for a song of their own. It all just started to fall into place magically and deliciously.
Morris: It was a very special time in our career. It’s always nice to do something where no one really has any idea what it will become, where even if people have an idea that it will be successful, they’re still wrong ‘cause it’s usually more successful than they think. That song reminds me of that. No one really knew what was gonna happen when we did that record. Obviously, it was Boyz II Men and Mariah at the top of our careers, and it felt good...It was kind of a no-brainer, but you can still get bad records out of things like that.
Afansieff: Once in a while you get this feeling that well, we’re going against the status quo; this isn’t something that everyone sings about. Everyone is delightful, sounds amazing and there’s something definitely special here. But for it to have gotten as far as it did, nobody had a clue.
Morris: It sucks that we don’t perform it [as much]. We’ve only performed it twice in its history together. We’ve tried to perform it and do different things, but unfortunately, they didn’t pan out. One time, [Boyz II Men] were in Anaheim and we actually had a show a couple of blocks away from where Mariah was shooting the DVD for her album. We had on street clothes and just decided to go over, straight Philly style, bumrushed the door. We got in and went on stage and sang it with her and taped it for the DVD.
There have been times where we’d have liked to perform the song but unfortunately, Mariah hasn’t been available for us to perform it over the last 10, 20 years. We have no ill feelings about it -- it just is what it is. We wish it could be better. It just sucks sometimes ‘cause with a song that powerful, you should be able to perform more than once.
Afanasieff: I was recently in New York with my wife. The venue we were in was playing the song and my wife told the female bartender, a friend of hers, that I co-wrote that song. The bartender started to cry. The song had gotten her through her hardest times, she said, because her husband passed away. She couldn’t believe that one of the people responsible for the song was sitting right there. She literally started to bawl. She said she would listen to the song over and over again every day during that period. As I understand it, a lot of people feel the same way. It’s not a love song. It’s a tough song. - Billboard: April 12, 2016 “We Belong Together: Mariah Carey's Collaborators Share Untold Stories Behind 8 Classics” by Natalie Weiner and Adelle Platon Additional reporting by Gail Mitchell.
- “This is a very, very special song to me. I knew that the best collaboration for me would be to work with Boyz II Men. They are such a talented group of male vocalists. This collaboration came at such a perfect time in the song’s evolution. When we first got together, Nate was working on a song with a similar subject matter, and ironically enough, very similar melody as well. We decided to document the writing and recording of the song because we had a feeling we wouldn’t be able to get back together with our hectic schedules, this the video in the recording studio and all the real moments you see when you watch it. As a songwriter, I’m very grateful to the millions of people who tell me that the song has changed their lives and helped them get through the difficult of losing a loved one. I know a lot of people have very strong memories associated with this song. I certainly do.” - 2015, #1 to Infinity liner notes
1996 Released on the Daydream album.
1998 Included on the #1s compilation.
2001 Included on the Greatest Hits compilation.
2009 Included on the The Ballads/Love Songs compilation.
2015 Included on the #1 to Infinity compilation.