The verses of the song recall those “four best years” — little Ronan’s bare feet, his smile, his blue eyes, his dances before bed, his race cars and plastic dinosaurs on the kitchen floor — and the unimaginable: “Flowers pile up in the worst way, nobody knows what to say / About a beautiful boy who died.” Ronan died of neuroblastoma in 2011.
It was a one-off record, available only on iTunes at the time, and Swift largely made it through an (understandably emotional) television performance of it for the 2012 Stand Up to Cancer telethon, with Ronan’s sweet face behind her onstage.
Swift recently emailed Maya Thompson asking her what she would think if their song found a home in the updated version of red, that she previously said would have a total of 30 tracks.
As Thompson reports in the latest post: on her blog, part of Swift’s letter said, “I recently completed the re-recording of my 4th album, red. It has 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 anger and rawness, of tragedy and trauma, and of losing an imagined future next to someone. I wrote Ronan while I was making red and discovered your story as you told it so honestly and devastatingly. I sincerely hope you agree with me that this song should be on this album. As my co-writer and the rightful owner of this story in its entirety, your opinion and approval of this idea is really important to me, and I will honor your wishes here.”
Thompson wrote that she had “of course” given her permission to add “Ronan” to… Red (Taylor’s version).
“I tried my best to put into words how much this meant to me through my tears, but there aren’t enough words in the English language that will ever be able to properly convey my feelings about this. Taylor has you on anchored this world, so you will never be lost, and now she has made sure you are safe forever in a new permanent home,” she wrote to her late son. “She is going to give a voice to the often voiceless again, the next of kin of the world. “Red (Taylor’s version)” will be out on November 19 and you’ll be there on that album.”
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 the rules and breaking free. Thank you for that heart of yours made of pure gold. You are a constant source of inspiration to me in so many areas of my life, and there is no one in the world I would rather have Ronan with than you.”