Chicago Remembers David Bowie

CHICAGO (CBS) — As the music world mourns the death of trailblazing rock star David Bowie, the Museum of Contemporary Art was celebrating the life of the musician who proved to be their biggest draw.

Bowie died overnight after an 18-month battle with cancer, just two days after his 69th birthday, and the release of his latest album, ★ (pronounced “Blackstar”).

An exhibition “David Bowie Is” was the most popular attraction ever at the Museum of Contemporary Art, when it brought 200,000 visitors to the museum between September 2014 and January 2015.

“He cared so much about his appearance, and his costumes, and videos, and concerts,” MCA chief curator Michael Darling said. “All of that was very artful, so it really lent itself to an exhibition.”

Darling said Bowie himself didn’t have much to do with assembling the exhibit.

“He was very hands-off, and very kind of reclusive throughout the whole process; which was, in some ways, kind of disappointing, because we would have liked to have met him, but also I think it really allowed the exhibition to be very objective,” he said.

As soon as he heard the Victoria and Albert Museum in London was assembling the exhibit, Darling jumped at the chance to bring it to Chicago.

“Luckily, I got there just in time to secure it for Chicago as what I thought, at first, was the first American venue for the exhibition; but it turns out we were the only American venue for the show,” he said.

Darling said Bowie was constantly reinventing himself, and always ahead of his time – in music, fashion, and art.

“He was just somebody that was constantly active, and really just always seemed to have his finger on the pulse of what was important and what was going on in culture at any given moment,” he said.

Theatre, art, fashion and genre-bending music, Chicagoans saw it all.

At WXRT Radio, they had just celebrated David Bowie’s birthday on Friday. Lin Brehmer’s conversations with Bowie included much more than music.

“You never wanted to get into a conversation about early 20th century philosophy with a guy like David Bowie because you would be in over your head,” Brehmer said. “Beyond artistically, David Bowie was a brilliant man.”

CBS 2’s Jim Williams says he David Bowie in the stage play “The Elephant Man” at what was then the Blackstone Theatre. He says it was a very difficult, physically demanding role and Bowie was brilliant.

Rich Daniels is on camera music director for the hit TV show Empire.

“It wasn’t just the music — it was the whole man and who he was and what it was and how he presented himself to the world,” Daniels said.

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