Story Behind the Song: Clare Bowen, ‘Warrior’
One of the songs on her 2019 self-titled album that is most special to Clare Bowen is "Warrior," a tribute to the children who were in the hospital with her while she was being treated for pediatric cancer as a young child. It took Bowen a long time to find the words to write the song, and she had help from two special co-writers: her husband, Brandon Robert Young, and her frequent collaborator and friend Justin Halpin. Read on to learn the story behind "Warrior," told in Bowen's own words.
I realized, throughout writing the album, that I hadn't been able to write a song about the children who I was in the hospital with, my friends who didn't make it out. I don't know anyone else who survived my round of chemotherapy. It was experimental, and very extreme. It actually nearly killed me outright.
When I first went into hospitals -- when I was about four, I think, and I was first diagnosed -- I remember one of the first days there, I was in an elevator. I was really confused, because I had never been in air conditioning before. I remember asking my mother, "Are there heaters in Heaven? Because it's really cold here." I know that was crushing for her, but that was my mindset at the time. I knew that I was dying, and it was like, "Alright, well, I'll just hold on as long as I can."
So I'm in the elevator with my parents, and another little girl came in with her mother. This is the person that became my best friend, Jackie. She was a couple of years older than me, and she'd lived in the hospital for a while, and she had no hair and was in a wheelchair. She was just a little girl herself, but, to me, she was so grown-up and so big and so strong, and she knew everything. She was like, "So this is nuclear medicine, and this is where you'll go down and get your finger pricked every day, to check your levels. This is my favorite nurse, Chrissy." She showed me everything about the hospital -- where was fun, where to go, that it was okay to be what we were.
There was a magazine they used to bring out called the Chemo Chronicle, for all the kids. In the back, there was a section [called] "Congratulations" -- like, "You get to go home today, you're in remission, or sort of in remission." And along with that was the "Condolences" section. When I left the hospital, my name was in the "Congratulations" section, and Jackie's was in the "Condolences" section.
There were so many of us that didn't make it. Somebody died literally every day. You watch people in such pain, and such trials, that children should never have to go through. No human being should ever have to kiss their child goodbye like that. But that's what happened every day. The resilience of these people was the most awe-striking thing I have ever witnessed in my life, and that was how I grew up.
So I said to my sweet husband, Brandon Robert Young, and our friend Justin Halpin -- these are the two guys who wrote "Love Steps In" for me, so they get it -- I said, "There's a song I gotta write. I know it's called "Warrior," I know some of the words, but I need you to help me find the rest, because it's too big for me."
We all sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote, and as we wrote, I realized that we were actually writing about everybody. Everybody has a struggle. That's what life is. We all suffer at some point ... but there are so many people out there who feel like what makes them not fit in is written all over them, and I want them to know that whether your scars are in your mind, your heart, your body, your soul -- they don't define you. And they're beautiful.
A lot of people have gravitated towards "Warrior." I want people to be able to stand up and say, "This is my scar, and it's mine, and I own it." And [I want them to] know that it makes them stronger and it makes them beautiful ... I think that's part of my mission with music, too, to reassure people that they're not alone.
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