This was written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn for the Oscar-winning movie The Poseidon Adventure, starring Gene Hackman. The original title of the song was "Why Must There Be a Morning After?"
The song is about weathering the storm (figuratively and, in the context of the movie, literally), knowing there has to be a morning after when it will all be over.
In the movie, this was sung by Renee Amand, with Carol Lynley lip-synching to it in front of the camera.
This won the Oscar for Best Song, 1972. In addition, The Poseidon Adventure won the Best Special Effects Oscar.
During the spring of 1972, Russ Regan (the head of 20th Century Records at the time) began looking for someone to record "The Morning After" for the singles market. He originally offered the song to Barbra Streisand, but she turned it down in favor of other projects. He then remembered hearing (months before) a demo tape from a secretary who was a part-time folk singer (and who had never made a record before) named Maureen McGovern. Regan liked her voice so much, that he immediately hired her sight unseen to record the song.
Upon initial release, the McGovern version was ignored, but after the Oscar presentation, the public wanted a copy of "that song." It started climbing the charts in the summer of 1973, a year after McGovern recorded it.
McGovern performed another Oscar-winning song, "We May Never Love This Way Again," in 1974's The Towering Inferno, but the single didn't make the Top 40. Nor did Superman's "Can You Read My Mind" in 1979, but her theme song from the TV series Angie ("Different Worlds") managed to reach #18 that year.
Ironically, when this song gave McGovern a healthy professional life as a singer, her private life was in shambles. She was going through a lawsuit with her first manager; she was divorcing her husband; and she found out that her mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer. Since then, McGovern has received letters from people telling her how much this "generic hope song" (as many people call it) helped them cope with the downside of life, which has helped her realize in later years how meaningful the song really is. Many years after the release of this song, McGovern became involved in organizations to help people realize how music can heal.
Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
Decades after the song was first released it started showing up in movies and TV series, as its association with The Poseidon Adventure dissipated. Movies it appeared in include:
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)
Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Among the TV series:
The X-Files ("Nothing Lasts Forever" - 2018)
King of the Hill ("Pour Some Sugar on Kahn" - 2008)
The Simpsons ("The Wettest Stories Ever Told," 2006 and "A Streetcar Named Marge," 1992)
Family Guy ("Don't Make Me Over" - 2005)
It was also used in the first episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse in 2018, where a disparate group of people are gathered in an outpost after a nuclear war. Unsure who is controlling their environment, they are heartened with this song starts playing, assuming it is a sign. The second episode is titled "The Morning After."
This song is very popular with white audiences, a point made in the 2019 Netflix movie Dolemite Is My Name when Craig Robinson's musician character says, "Before I go out, I always keep 'The Morning After' in my hip pocket, just in case there's any white faces."