Kerry Kennedy Wishes 'Greatest Mom' Ethel a Happy 96th Birthday with a Song That Taylor Swift Wrote About Her

Ethel Kennedy's early romance with Robert F. Kennedy inspired Swift's 2012 song "Starlight"

Nancy Rivera/Shutterstock Ethel Kennedy and her daughter Kerry Kennedy attend the RFK Ripple of Hope Awards dinner in 2013
Nancy Rivera/Shutterstock Ethel Kennedy and her daughter Kerry Kennedy attend the RFK Ripple of Hope Awards dinner in 2013

Ethel Kennedy, the widow of late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is being showered with love on her 96th birthday.

On Thursday, April 11, Kerry Kennedy honored her mother by sharing a video montage on X accompanied by Taylor Swift's 2012 song "Starlight," which was inspired by Ethel and RFK's love story.

"Today is my mom's 96th birthday!" Kerry, 64, wrote. "To celebrate her, please listen to this great song that @taylorswift13 wrote about my parents!"

Alongside the video, Kerry reminded followers of Ethel's life and career highlights, writing, "My mother founded @RFKHumanRights in the fall of 1969 to carry forth my father’s legacy. For more than half a century, my mom has been a champion for justice, standing with human rights defenders around the globe."

"Her courage and dedication to #HumanRights motivate our team every day," she continued, "inspiring us to hold governments accountable, promote human rights education and #YouthOrganizing, advance #dignity and #equality in workplaces and investment communities, and uplift grassroots changemakers."

"Happy birthday to the greatest mom I could ever imagine!" concluded Kerry, who followed in her mother's footsteps by taking the reins of RFK Human Rights in 1988 — a job she still holds today.

Related: Kerry Kennedy Shares Childhood Photo with Dad RFK as She Marks Anniversary of His Assassination

AP Ethel Kennedy (née Skakel) and Robert F. Kennedy at their wedding on June 17, 1950
AP Ethel Kennedy (née Skakel) and Robert F. Kennedy at their wedding on June 17, 1950

Swift explained the story behind "Starlight" in a 2012 interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying, "I get a lot of style inspiration from the 1960s, so I'll go and look at black and white pictures, and look at [photos from the] '50s and '60s, and I came across this picture of these two kids dancing at a dance."

"It immediately made me think of like how much fun they must have had that night. It was back in the late '40s," continued Swift, who was dating Ethel's grandson Conor Kennedy at the time. "I ended up reading underneath that it was Ethel Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. ... So I just kind of wrote that song from that place, not really knowing how they met or anything like that."

Related: Taylor Swift & Conor Kennedy Split

In the song, Swift tells the story of a teenage couple falling in love and dancing the night away like they were "made of starlight."

The song is written from Ethel's perspective, directly referencing RFK in a line that says, "I met Bobby on the boardwalk, summer of '45 / Picked me up, late one night at the window / We were seventeen and crazy, running wild, wild."

Related: Robert F. Kennedy's Widow, Ethel, Lays a Rose on His Grave on 50th Anniversary of His Assassination

In the bridge of the song, Swift foreshadowed how Ethel and Bobby's relationship panned out, singing, "Ooh, ooh, he's talking crazy / Ooh, ooh, dancing with me / Ooh, ooh, we could get married / Have ten kids and teach 'em how to dream."

In real life, the couple did get married and had 11 children — including Kerry — creating the largest branch of the Kennedy family tree.

Another of their kids who went on to dream big is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., now a third-party candidate for president who caught his family's political bug but has recently been criticized by his siblings for promoting conspiracy theories.

Related: Kerry Kennedy Speaks Out on Bobby's Presidential Bid: 'Love My Brother, but Do Not Share or Endorse His Views'

Swift told WSJ that before the song was publicly released, Ethel's youngest daughter, Rory Kennedy, came to one of her shows. "I told [Rory] about the song," Swift recalled, "and she was like, 'You have to meet my mom. She would love to meet you.'"

<p>Bettman</p> Ethel and Bobby Kennedy with 10 children circa 1965


Ethel and Bobby Kennedy with 10 children circa 1965

Ethel has steered her family through countless tragedies, including the assassination of her brother-in-law John F. Kennedy and the assassination of her husband just five years later, while she was pregnant with Rory.

Related: Read the Wrenching Letter Jackie Kennedy Wrote to RFK's Wife Ethel After His Death 50 Years Ago

Ethel and Bobby's son David died of an overdose in 1984 at the age of 28, and their son Michael was killed in a skiing accident in 1997 at the age of 37.

Others in her family who died tragically young include nephew JFK Jr., niece Kara, estranged daughter-in-law Mary, nephew Christopher, granddaughters Saoirse and Maeve, and great-grandson Gideon.

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"It's never-ending for her. She has lost her husband, two of her children, her nephew John and now two of her grandchildren and a great grandchild," a close family friend told PEOPLE in 2020. "It's unimaginable."

"Certainly in private I'm sure the sadness and the burdens could overtake her, but she's so strong and she understands what needs to be done and how to buckle up every morning," the friend said. "Strength, for her, it's her faith — I know sometimes it's a misused term and it's a cliché, but to Ethel it's not."

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