Operators were standing by when Taylor Swift performed her heart-rending new song on the Stand Up to Cancer telethon on Sept. 7. Ronan, laconic pathos-pop in the misty-eyed tradition of Terry Jacks's Seasons in the Sun and Henry Gross's Shannon, concerns a stunningly cute boy (Ronan Thompson) who died before reaching the age of 5.
A studio version of the song quickly shot to the top of the iTunes download chart.
Swift split the song's writing credits with the child's mother, Maya Thompson, who blogged about Ronan's battle with neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer.
The Grammy-winning singer, along with millions of others, faithfully followed the blog (rockstarronan.com), in which Maya Thompson took great pains to be honest and frank about Ronan's fight. Swift is donating her royalties from the song to cancer charities; Thompson's share is being directed to the Ronan Thompson Foundation.
"Come on baby with me, we're gonna fly away from here," the affecting chorus goes, "Out of this curtained room, and this hospital grey will just disappear."
Swift's label has confirmed via Twitter that Ronan is not on her forthcoming Red album, but has indicated it "may have to rethink" about adding it to the record, given the song's popularity.