Ronan

Charity Single (2012) | RED (Taylor's Version) [2021]

“Ronan” is a charity single Taylor originally released on September 8, 2012. The song’s lyrics are based on a blog she had read about a four-year-old boy, Ronan, who died from neuroblastoma in 2011. She wrote the song by putting together quotes from blog creator Maya Thompson, Ronan’s mother. Thompson is credited as a co-writer of the song. A few years later, Taylor re-recorded “Ronan (Taylor’s Version)” and gave it a home on her album RED (Taylor’s Version) [2021].
Taylor first performed the song live for Stand Up To Cancer in September 2012, and has only performed it publicly one other time, at the Glendale (Arizona) stop of “The 1989 World Tour“, at which the Thompson family was in attendance. All proceeds from sales of the single go to help fight cancer.

Background and Composition

Taylor wrote “Ronan” after reading Maya Thompson’s blog. Thompson is the mother of four-year-old Ronan Thompson, who died in 2011 of neuroblastoma. He had been treated at “Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital”. Maya began writing blog entries in August 2010 when Ronan was diagnosed and she continued penning her entries in the blog “Rockstar Ronan” during the nine months that Ronan fought the illness before passing away in May 2011, just three days before he would have turned four. Maya worked through her grief by continuing the blog, writing heartbreaking letters to her late son, whilst also raising money and awareness for childhood cancer causes.

Taylor and Maya met in October 2011, when Taylor invited her to the concert on her “Speak Now World Tour” in Glendale. Maya wrote about her reaction when Taylor told her that she’d penned the song inspired by her blog entries: “My calmness soon turned to complete and utter frozen shock when these words came out of her mouth:

«I wrote a song for Ronan, and the tears started pouring down my cheeks as soon as I heard her say those words. But her words didn't stop there. Not only did she write a song for you, but she wanted to know if it would be alright to perform it on the nationally televised show.»

Maya Thompson on her blog "Rockstar Ronan"
Taylor credits Maya Thompson as the co-writer of the song.

Commercial Performance

“Ronan” was released digitally on iTunes following a performance of the song on Stand Up To Cancer, with all the proceeds going to cancer-related charities, as stated by Taylor herself via Twitter. CEO of Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta, confirmed via Twitter that the song wasn’t part of the tracklist of Taylor’s then soon-to-be-released fourth studio album RED (2012), but that they “may have to rethink” about adding it to the album. They didn’t add “Ronan” to the album, but the song is available on iTunes US.

“Ronan” received 220,000 downloads in its first week, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart and  No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Critical Reception

“Ronan” received acclaim from critics. Rolling Stone called the song “heartbreaking”. Bill Dukes of Taste of Country wrote: “It was clear [Swift] was just the voice for Maya Thompson…” Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic said that “‘Ronan’ may very well be [Swift’s] finest hour as an artist.”

Re-Release on RED (Taylor's Version)

On July 30, 2021, Maya Thompson announced that Taylor would re-release “Ronan” on RED (Taylor’s Version), the re-recording of her fourth studio album, RED (2012). In an emotional blog entry, Thompson shared parts of an email Taylor wrote to her:

«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.»

Taylor Swift

Thompson agreed immediately, writing in her blog entry addressed to Ronan: “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, permeant home. She is once again going to give a voice to the often voiceless, the bereaved parents of the world.”

You can read Maya Thompson’s full blog entry here.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I remember your bare feet, down the hallway
I remember your little laugh
Race cars on the kitchen floor, plastic dinosaurs
I love you to the moon and back

I remember your blue eyes looking into mine
Like we had our own secret club
I remember you dancing before bed time
Then jumping on me waking me up

I can still feel you hold my hand, little man
And even the moment I knew
You fought it hard like an army guy
Remember I leaned in and whispered to you

[Chorus]
Come on baby with me we’re going to fly away from here
You were my best four years

[Verse 2]
I remember the drive home
When the blind hope turned to crying and screaming “Why?”
Flowers pile up in the worst way, no one knows what to say
About a beautiful boy who died

And it’s about to be Halloween
You could be anything you wanted, if you were still here
I remember the last day, when I kissed your face
I whispered in your ear

[Chorus]
Come on baby with me we’re going to fly away from here
Out of this curtain room and this hospital grey, we’ll just disappear
Come on baby with me we’re going to fly away from here
You were my best four years

[Bridge]
What if I’m standing in your closet trying to talk to you?
What if I kept the hand-me-downs you won’t grow into?
And what if I really thought some miracle would see us through?
What if the miracle was even getting one moment with you?

[Chorus]
Come on baby with me we’re going to fly away from here
Come on baby with me we’re going to fly away from here
You were my best four years

[Outro]
I remember your bare feet, down the hallway
I love you to the moon and back

General Information
AlbumRED (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedSeptember 12, 2012
Re-ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
Written2011
GenreSoft Rock
Length4:25
LabelBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Maya Thompson
ProducerTaylor Swift
RED CHRONOLOGY
State of Grace (Acoustic Version)RonanBetter Man
Single Certification
Ronan
Single Artwork
Live Performance
Official Audio