Keith Bayley wrote Tall and Strong after learning of the diagnosis of his nephew and godson Will Rutt with rhabdomyosarcoma this Spring.
The cancer, which develops in connective tissues in the body, was found after a lump was detected in his armpit.
Will, from Bushey, and a pupil of the Aldenham School in Elstree, embarked on six months of intense chemotherapy, which took a physical and emotional toll on him and his family.
Telling his story
Keith said: “I’ve known Will since he was a few minutes old. He lives in the next street and we holiday together every year as families. It hit us all very hard.
“I wanted to raise awareness and tell his story. So I did the one thing I could do as a songwriter and composer – I wrote a song. I wanted to capture the moments in Will’s journey and to connect with other families feeling the same emotions.”
Keith sent a rough demo to Will’s family and they loved it. He then produced the single and Americana duo Portland agreed to sing lead vocals.
He said: “For me their performance captures both the vulnerability and the hope in the words.”
Tall and Strong was released on December 1 as a single on all digital platforms, with the money raised to be donated to CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer support charity for young patients. It is supported by a video showing Will’s walk, joined by others who support him.
“Above all, there was one single idea behind the song, which is called Tall and Strong – none of us know why this is happening, but we are all here for you: ‘Just know that we’ll be waiting in the morning, when you wake up, tall and strong,” Keith said.
Jo, Will’s mum, said:
“Hearing the song made me cry, but as I listened to the words I thought about those other families going through the agony we were going through."
"I thought about them and thought, I want this to be for you.
“Val Pottinger, a social worker from CLIC Sargent, contacted me when Will commenced his chemo in May. She was so helpful and supportive, and told me about the support that was available to Will, and that he would be entitled to claim PIP, which really helped with paying for expensive train fares into London.
“When your child has just been diagnosed with cancer your head is all over the place – a big fuzzy mess."
"To have someone direct you to the help that is available is a godsend.”
Phil Day, music co-ordinator at CLIC Sargent, said: “This is such a beautiful song and I am sure it will inspire and support many other families. We at CLIC Sargent are grateful for the support and happy to know that we were able to be there to help Will and his family during the hardest of times.”
Will said: “I think this has really changed me, and my outlook on life. I now notice the small things and the things we all take for granted. I was just a regular teenage boy before this happened, but it’s taught me that you never know what’s around the corner and we should make the most of every day and all the opportunities we have.
“I think we are all very lucky. It’s taken something like this for me to appreciate that fully.”