An album of unheard Michael Jackson songs inspired by Robert Burns has been donated to a Scottish museum by the late singer’s friend David Gest.
Burns’s work has been influencing poets and writers – not the mention an traditional annual supper in Scottish homes - since the turn of the 19th century, but until recently ‘the Ploughman Poet’ was not thought to hold much sway with the King of Pop.
But according to Gest, who first mentioned the project in 2009, Jackson was a huge Burns fan and together they turned many of his poems into show tunes. The results have been donated to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayrshire.
Speaking to BBC Alba, a Gaelic TV channel, Gest said: “Both being fanatics, I said to Michael, let's do a play Burns's life and he said he would help me with the music.
“We went to his recording studio at the family house in Encino, where all the Jacksons grew up and we took about eight or 10 of Burns's poems and we put them to contemporary music, things like A Red Red Rose and Ae Fond Kiss and the story of Tam O'Shanter.”
The latter - one of Burns’s best-known works - was even, Gest claimed, partly responsible for inspiring one of Jackson’s biggest hits, Thriller.
If the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum go ahead with their plan to produce a CD with the donated songs, it will be interesting to hear how Michael Jackson adapted his famous falsetto to the gruff Scots dialect that Robbie Burns used for his poems.
Whether the results will appeal to Jackson’s hardcore fan base or find themselves played at Burns Suppers across Scotland this month remains to be seen.
Born in 1759, Burns was a early devotee to the pleasures of poetry, women and alcohol who found fame as a writer by the relatively young age of 27.
Hailed as a bright light in Scottish poetry, he fled the hardship of his family farm to arrive in Edinburgh where he mixed with powerful new friends, fathered the odd illicit child and co-wrote a little-known classic, Auld Lang Syne.
Within just 18 months, Burns has squandered most of the fortune he’d made from publishing his poetry and became increasingly radical in his writing and views. He died in 1796 aged just 37.
So, early fame and a premature death, via penning some of the world’s most enduring classics and spending a fortune. Perhaps Burns and Jackson had more in common that we first thought after all...