“Ronan,” the heart-wrenching song Taylor Swift wrote following an almost four-year-old’s sadly fatal battle with cancer, will appear on Swift’s re-recorded Red album, Billboard can confirm.
The song was written during the Red era, and now “Ronan” will have a place on Red (Taylor’s Version). The album’s re-recording has been completed and is scheduled to be released on Nov. 19.
“Ronan” is a ballad about a young boy named Ronan Thompson that was inspired by mother Maya Thompson’s blog, “Rockstar Ronan,” and it was written from her perspective. (Maya Thompson is credited as co-writer.)
The song’s verses remember those “best four years” — little Ronan’s bare feet, his laugh, his blue eyes, his dancing before bedtime, his race cars and plastic dinosaurs on the kitchen floor — and the unimaginable: “Flowers pile up in the worst way, no one knows what to say/ About a beautiful boy who died.” Ronan, who was born in May 2007, died from neuroblastoma in May 2011, just before he would have turned four.
It was a one-off record, available only on iTunes at the time, and Swift mostly made it through an (understandably emotional) televised performance of it for 2012’s Stand Up to Cancer telethon, with Ronan’s sweet face shown behind her on the stage.
Swift recently emailed Maya Thompson to ask her how she would feel about their song finding a home on the updated version of Red, which she previously said would have a total of 30 tracks.
As Thompson reports in the latest entry on her blog, part of Swift’s letter said: “I’ve recently completed the re-recording of my 4th album, Red. It’s really exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and one of those ways is that I thought it would be appropriate to add ‘Ronan’ to this album. Red was an album of heartbreak and healing, of rage and rawness, of tragedy and trauma, and of the loss of an imagined future alongside someone. I wrote Ronan while I was making Red and discovered your story as you so honestly and devastatingly told it. My genuine hope is that you’ll agree with me that this song should be included on this album. As my co-writer and the rightful owner of this story in its entirety, your opinion and approval of this idea really matters to me, and I’ll honor your wishes here.”
Thompson wrote that she “of course” granted her permission to add “Ronan” to Red (Taylor’s Version).
“I tried my best to articulate how much this meant to me through my tears, but there are not enough words in the English language that will ever be able to appropriately convey my feelings about this. Taylor has anchored you to this world so you will never be lost, and now she has ensured you will forever be safe in a new, permanent home,” she wrote to her late son. “She is once again going to give a voice to the often voiceless, the bereaved parents of the world. ‘Red (Taylor’s version)’ will be out November 19th and on that album, there will be you.”
She ended her blog post with heartfelt words for Swift: “Thank you for keeping Ronan safe. Thank you for never forgetting him. Thank you for breaking rules and breaking free. Thank you for that heart of yours that is made of pure gold. You are a constant source of inspiration to me in so many areas of my life, and there is nobody in the world I would rather have Ronan with than you.”