“Day After Tomorrow” by Tom Waits

To begin with, Tom Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow” is what we will describe as a political song with a very strong political message.

Waits composed this classic specifically from the view point of an American soldier who has been sent overseas to fight for his country.

The lyrics of the song take the form of a letter that the soldier is composing to his beloved recipient(s) back home whom he misses so dearly. He had actually received a letter from them and is writing a reply to the said letter.

In the letter, he talks about a number of things. Most notable among them is how he deeply misses his loved ones as well as those basic home chores that he used to take for granted, such as “shoveling snow and raking leaves”. And from the looks of things, there’s nothing our soldier wouldn’t give to relieve those priceless good old days.

Song’s Title (“Day After Tomorrow”)

The song’s title is derived from the day the narrator hopes to get back home. According to his letter, he would apparently be shipped back home soon and would actually arrive “on the day after tomorrow”. Now, it is not clear if he is using this phrase literally or metaphorically. However, we are beyond sure he is using it in the latter form.

All in all, he is telling the letter’s recipient that he’d be seeing them soon. It should be noted that we are also not using the adverb “soon” in a literal sense. The “soon” is representative of whenever the war ends. It is basically representing “the day after tomorrow”.

The war could end today, tomorrow or 10 years from now. The narrator doesn’t know exactly when that is going to happen. But one thing is for certain. He knows the war would surely come to an end. And that special day would be the “day after tomorrow”. And when that day finally comes, he hopes he would be among “the lucky ones” that get to “come home”.

An Anti-War Song?

This piece is undoubtedly an anti-war song, considering our narrator is totally against the war he is fighting. We first get to know his true sentiments about the war in the beginning of his letter where he talks about being so fed up of “taking orders” to fight.

He then proceeds to reveal to the recipient that the war is an unjust one because he and his fellow brothers-in-arms have been fed nothing but lies by the powers that be. And we would assume one of those lies would be that they are fighting for a just cause.

The narrator apparently believed those lies himself. However, upon arriving on the battlefield and spilling so much blood, he has come to realize sadly that the war isn’t for a just cause. He and his comrades were clearly deceived. They were fooled into believing they were fighting for “justice” and “freedom” when in actual fact they were just nothing but disposable puppets spilling blood so the puppet master would achieve their selfish goals.

To stress on how expendable or unimportant the soldiers are in the overall scheme, he refers to him and his comrades as “gravel on the road”. Everyone who knows gravel knows it is meant to be walked or driven on.

Lyrics for Tom Waits' "Day After Tomorrow"

Tom Waits talks about “Day After Tomorrow”

Tom has described this song as one that protests against one of America’s most infamous wars, the Iraq War. This war saw the United States lead a coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003. The invasion led to a war that lasted from that time until 2011.

After almost a decade of fighting, the war caused the deaths of over 150,000 people. It also left over 3 million people displaced. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan famously once referred to the invasion of Iraq as an illegal act.

Day After Tomorrow

Credits and Release

In composing this song, Tom Waits worked with American songwriter and producer Kathleen Brennan (who also produced the track). The pair has over the years enjoyed a very successful song-writing and production partnership. Kathleen is actually best known for being Tom Waits’ primary song-writing partner – a role she assumed in the early 1990s.

On October 3rd, 2004, Waits released his sixteenth studio album via the American based ANTI- record label. The said album, which is titled “Real Gone”, consists of approximately 16 tracks, including “Day After Tomorrow”.

FYI, it should be noted that Kathleen and Tom got married in 1980. 

Phoebe Bridgers’ Cover of “Day After Tomorrow”

Since the release of this protest song in 2004, a number of singers have come out with their own renditions. One of the most notable of such covers was the 2021 one by American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. All proceeds raised from Phoebe’s cover went to charity.

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