1. Robert Burns nearly left Scotland to become a bookkeeper on a Jamaican slave plantation
Before literary success, Robert Burns was offered a job in Jamaica on a slave plantation as a bookkeeper. Fate intervened as Burns became a literary sensation and he moved to Edinburgh and became an anti-slavery advocate instead.It’s a good thing he never went to Jamaica - Who knows WHAT song we’d be ringing in the New Year with! The Macarena?
2. Burns may have written the most famous song in the English Language
Robert Burns wrote the lyrics to what is considered to be one of the most popular songs in the English Language: Auld Lang Syne - the New Years Song! The Guinness Book of World Records says that the song shares a league with “Happy Birthday” and “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in universal popularity. The song has appeared in over 170 Hollywood films including “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “When Harry Met Sally.” This qualifies Burns as an authentic 18 th Century rock star!
3. Like most rock stars, Robert Burns had his short comings
Robert Burns was the eldest of seven boys. Their dad had high hopes for his children’s morals and even wrote them a pamphlet on the virtues of Christianity called "A Manual of Christian Belief." Despite this, Burns came to be known for his (cough cough) “ festive” lifestyle. His first child was conceived with his mother’s servant. Later in life, after experiencing many women, he married & started a family with his wife Jean who bore him 9 children. It's been said that there were 2 more children somewhere in between with 2 other women. Burns died at the early age of 37 due to rheumatic fever which was definitely exasperated by his rowdy lifestyle. Poetically, his youngest child was born during his funeral procession. Take that, Keith Richards!
4. Bob Dylan sites Robert Burns as his greatest influence!
Robert Burns’ influence transcends national borders and generations. Bob Dylan sited Rabbie as his single greatest influence. The revelation was discovered during the HMV “My Inspiration” campaign during which several musicians were asked to reveal the verse from a song that they had been most inspired by. Dylan quoted a line from Burns’ poem “A Red, Red Rose.”
5. Michael Jackson was such a fan of Burns that he wrote a musical about him!
Stretching into the pinnacle of pop culture, Michael Jackson was keen on Burns’ influence in his work. Michael Jackson’s music video "Thriller" is said to have been based on Burns’ poem "Tam O’Shanter." Michael Jackson and Hollywood producer David Gest even wrote a musical about the life of Robert Burns! Although it was shelved more than twenty years ago, the musical came back to life in January 2015 and even made it to Broadway. Jackson had no role in the final production but is paid homage to and referenced throughout.
6. Famous authors have used phrases or concepts from Burns’ poems as the titles of their own famous works
JD Salinger took fame for the Burns-inspired title for his most famous work, “The Catcher in the Rye,” from Burns’ poem “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” Also, John Steinbeck’s book “Of Mice and Men” was named from a line in Burns’ piece, “To a Mouse.”
7. Tommy Hilfiger is the great-great-grand-nephew of Robert Burns
Tommy Hilfiger didn’t discover the identity of his long lost uncle until his twenties. When asked about his distant relationship, Hilfiger told Vogue magazine, “It was never discussed in my house because it was said that Robert Burns was a womanizer and a boozer. They were embarrassed he was related, so we weren’t told.”
8. There is a creepy life-size head of Robert Burns that came straight from your worst nightmare
In a documentary about Rabbie, forensic scientist Professor Caroline Wilkinson revealed a life-size model of the poet’s head. They made this disturbing replica using casts of Burns’ skull and contemporary portraits. If you’re brave enough, you can see the photo here: (We wouldn’t recommend it.) The head even has real side burns!
9. The image of Burns’ face can be found in a lot of places, from Coke bottles to money!
Robert Burns is the first person ever to have his face on a commemorative bottle of Coke in 2005 to celebrate his 250 th birthday! Also, his face is now on Scottish money, even though much of Burns’ poetry is about defending the poor! Oh, poetic irony!
10. This guy has got some statues!
There are more statues dedicated to Robert Burns than any other non-religious figure in the world after Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus. You can see this guy in Glasgow, Melbourne, and even in St. Louis. There is even a statue of Robert Burns in Central Park in New York where his is depicted holding a copy of the poem “Mary.”