The Heartbreaking True Story Behind Taylor Swift’s Song ‘Ronan’

Photo: YouTube & Brian Friedman / Shutterstock
Ronan Thompson and Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has re-released 'Red' and featured one of her 2012 singles, 'Ronan' — and even credited the mom, of the boy behind the song title, as one of the writers on the track.

The album is filled with all of the fan favorites from the original 'Red' album and some new extended cuts and modified lyrics.

But one song that is as impactful as ever is 'Ronan' — especially once you know the true story behind the song. 

Who did Taylor Swift write 'Ronan' about?

Swift wrote 'Ronan' about a young boy who died from cancer in 2011.

Ronan Sean Thompson was born on May 12, 2007, and in August 2010 he was diagnosed with a type of childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma.

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Maya Thompson, a loving mother to four-year-old Ronan, lost her angel after an 8 month battle with cancer on May 9th, 2011, just one day before his 5th birthday. 

After Thompson lost her son, she started a blog called "Rockstar Ronan" and started writing about the death of her 4-year-old son.

Swift got a word of the blog posts and with Thompson's permission, wrote the 2012 one-of-a-kind charity song called "Ronan."

'Ronan' was originally a charity single. 

Swift turned Thompson’s blog posts into the song and released it as a benefit single for cancer research.

After Swift wrote the song she then arranged to meet mama Maya in person to ask if she could release it and Maya agreed. She's now credited as a writer which is special as she likely gets money from the song. 

Not only did Swift include the song on her new re-release of "Red (Taylor's Version)" but she released a music video that she and Maya collaborated on that was released last night as well. 

In a 1989 concert from 2017, Swift told the audience that night, which included Maya and her family, that "one of the bravest things that a human being could ever do is to go through something absolutely unbearable and then share their experience with the world and I think the braver you are the more brutally honest you are."

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"The thing about childhood cancer is that it's really really hard to talk about.. but the fact that she brought it up, she had this blog called Rockstar Ronan and I would read it every night and in it was this account of what it's like to watch cancer take over your life and since then I've had cancer really close to me and my family," said Swift referencing her mother Andrea — who at the time was battling cancer. 

"When I was reading her blog I decided that her account of things was so heart-wrenching and so honest that I took a lot of the things that she said and I put them into a song and I put her as the co-writer because she is the rightful co-writer of the song called Ronan and when we put it out all the proceeds of that song went to the Ronan Thompson foundation and other childhood cancer research." 

Swift reached out to Maya Thompson again before re-recording 'Red.'

In 2021, before Swift released the new album, she emailed Maya to ask if 'Ronan' could be included on the new record, writing, "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," said Swift in the email.

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She ended the email by saying, "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."

Maya posted on Twitter the other day before the music video was released that the music video is "beyond perfection and I can’t wait for you all to see it," and tagged Taylor Swift saying "you are one of the greatest loves of my life. TY for loving him."

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Megan Hatch is a writer at YourTango who covers news & entertainment, love & relationships, and internet culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.