The song Ronan is based on a blog that a mother named Maya Thompson kept during her son's battle with neuroblastoma. She wrote about her experience from diagnosis to death, and many of the lyrics in the song are taken directly from Rockstar Ronan, her blog.
"I read Ronan's story in the blog and immediately wanted to write something about him," says Thompson. She started Rockstar Ronan in August 2010 and continues to update her blog as she works through her grief. She writes letters to her son and raises money for cancer charities.
Swift first performed Ronan at the Stand Up to Cancer telethon in September 2012 and has since re-released it on her 2021 album Red (Taylor's Version). It has a co-writing credit from Ronan's mother, Maya Thompson.
Musically, the ballad is a soft rock song that features Taylor's trembling vocal accompanied by finger-picked guitar and piano tunes, as well as minimal drum brushes. It has a slower, more delicate pace than her later work, Speak Now.
The song was originally released as a charity single in September 2012. It peaked at number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and is certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
'Ronan' means 'little seal' in Irish. It's also the title of a book by John Green, and the lyrics to the song resemble the author's writing style.