According to David Gest, Michael recorded an album shortly before his death, which was inspired by the works of Robert Burns. Michael’s previously unheard tracks have been offered to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, in Ayrshire, Scotland.
It has emerged that Michael was a big fan of the Scottish Bard and that the Burns’ spine-tingling masterpiece ‘Tam O’Shanter,’ inspired his best-known track ‘Thriller.’
Music producer David Gest, who collaborated with Michael on the Burns project, visited the birthplace museum recently. Gest, himself a huge Burns fans, revealed that he and Michael had turned several of the poet’s works into show tunes.
In an interview with BBC Alba, Gest revealed: “Both being fanatics, I said to Michael, let’s do a play on 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 ten of Burns’s poems and we put them to contemporary music, things like ‘A Red Red Rose’ and ‘A 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 described Michael’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 Michael 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. They sing Auld Lang Syne every New Year’s Eve. And if you ask, out of every thousand maybe four people might know who Rabbie Burns is.”
In 1996, Gest 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 realised 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.