You know I’m Bard: Jacko recorded a Burns album

Show tunes: Some of the Bard's best-know works were given the Jackson treatment

MICHAEL Jackson recorded an album shortly before his death which was inspired by the works of Robert Burns.

Jackson’s previously unheard tracks have been offered to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Ayrshire.

It has emerged the superstar was a big fan of the Scottish Bard and that the Burns’ spine-tingling masterpiece Tam O’Shanter inspired Jackson’s best-known track,  Thriller.

Music producer David Gest, who collaborated with Jackson on the Burns project, visited the birthplace museum recently.

Gest, himself a huge Burns fans, revealed that he and Jackson had turned several of the poet’s works in to show tunes.

In an interview with BBC Alba, Gest revealed: “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.

“Michael believed in the project so much. He said: ‘I’ll give you the studio [in Los Angeles] and I’ll pay for all the music.”

Gest added: “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.

“When you listen to Thriller, you hear a little bit of Tam O’Shanter in there.”

The songs were originally intended to be part of a musical, directed by Gene Kelly and produced by actor Anthony Perkins. The death of both men meant it was never staged.

Gest, a former contestant on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, described Jackson’s recordings of the Burns works as “beautiful”.

He said it was important that they should be heard by the millions of Burns fans that travel to his homeland annually.

Gest also revealed how he and Jackson discovered the works of Burns.

He said: “I remember going with Michael Jackson to an antique book store in LA on Beverley Boulevard. This guy said he had got in a first edition of a Burns book and that it was very expensive.”

Gest admitted: “And so I said, let me see it, because I had no idea who Burns was because Americans are very illiterate as to who Rabbie Burns is.

The birthplace museum was offered the tracks by Gest

“They sing Auld Lang Syne every New Year’s Eve. And if you ask, out of every 1,000 maybe four people might know who Rabbie Burns is.”

Gest released a film on Jackson’s life last year. In 1996, he staged a show called Red Red Rose, which was based on Burns’s life and starred the actor John Barrowman.

The multi-millionaire also revealed that he tried to sleep in the poet’s bed at Burns Cottage during his recent visit.

He said: “I got to lay in the bed but the alarm went off. It’s a tiny bed but I kinda cuddled up. I thought: I’ve slept in the bed in which Rabbie Burns was born.

“He was so intelligent and so smart. It’s sad that when he died people really realise the greatness and importance, and it took death and a time after that to bring him into his own.

“He’s probably the greatest poet of all time.”

The National Trust for Scotland, which runs the Ayrshire museum, said: “We can confirm David Gest was recently at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum filming.

“We understand there was some discussion about the donation of some musical materials. If it goes ahead it will be an exciting addition.”

The programme, part of the series Cuide Ri Cathy, produced by MNE TV, is due to be broadcast in the spring.

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  1. His name is Michael Jackson, not “Jacko.” Never has been, never will be. Please use respect when reporting.

  2. Jacko? Really? When will you people in the UK stop disrespecting this man?
    He said the term “Jacko” was created in the UK, now it is time for you guys to put it to rest. Do the right thing.

  3. Could you please replace “Jacko” with something more appropriate and respectful with his birthname, for example. Thanks in advance!

  4. This is extremely disappointing… “Jacko” is a racist monkier, whose origin describes monkeys and can be a slur used for those of African descent.

    What’s more, Michael Jackson himself publicly stated in a 1997 interview with Barbara Walters that he loathed being referred to as “Jacko.”

    Please revise.

    I ask that you please remove the term “Jacko” from Mr. Laing’s article.

  5. By Peter Laing, respect the man that has sold a billion albums CD. His name is Michael Jackson. We, his fans, hate this name you called him. please, stop!!!!!

  6. Mr. Laing, Except for the unnecceary use of the bigoted term “Jacko” this was a very lovely article which sheds an important light on other little known aspect of Michael Jackson’s life; his love of reading. Michael Jackson had over 10,000 books in his Neverland Ranch home and was always been a voracious reader and intellectually driven mind continually in quest of knowledge.

    I do ask you very respectfully to please refrain from using such a derogatory term for this gentle man who is much mourned and sorely missed.

  7. Michael Jackson was well known for his love of poetry for many years. He himself wrote a book with many of his own poems and beautiful lyrics. An interesting article, however Mr. Laing I would think you as a journalist would use Mr. Jackson’s real name rather than using the term “Jacko” a name he detested. Let us at least respect him in death please.

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