August 4, 2023
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Maureen McGovern's "The Morning After" hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for two weeks.
The remarkably hopeful song — powered by its iconic placement in the smash-hit disaster flick The Poseidon Adventure (1972) — wound up setting McGovern's long career in motion when she recorded it.
McGovern announced an Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2022, and as such has been unable to perform live in some time. With the assistance of a mutual friend and her sister, she kindly reflected on her monumental hit.
Of the song's rise to pole position, McGovern recalls feeling, "Stunned, thrilled — I could not believe it!!!"
"I was a girl from Youngstown, Ohio, aspiring to have a career as a singer," she remembers. "I was performing on the East Coast the evening that 'The Morning After,' a song written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschorn, won the Oscar for Best Original Song ... The Oscars were happening in L.A. During my performance, the venue owners ran in, interrupted my show, and announced that the song had won the Oscar! The entire crowd erupted in grand applause. Their recognition and applause at that moment was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me. It was breathtaking."
It was, as is the case with so many of the biggest, most organically unforgettable hits, a song nobody expected to achieve such saturation.
"I had recorded the song ... to only minimal fanfare," she points out, "but that Oscar win ultimately created a lot of attention for the song and it became very popular. By August of 1973, 'The Morning After' was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list and had achieved gold-record sales. It was a dream come true!"
As for how the song has continued to follow her, McGovern states, "To this day, for all of 50 years, I have had people write letters to me, talk with me at concerts, even stop me on the street to share with me how the song helped get them through something in their life that they were not sure they could survive. It has been a part of almost every one of my live performances over the past five decades. Whenever I start to sing 'The Morning After,' the audience breaks into spontaneous applause and I feel the love in the room. The song’s message is a gift to us all."