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Mitchell: Prince’s death strikes an unexpected chord

Pop icon Prince

Columnist Mary Mitchell says everyone must leave here, but Prince was like the Peter Pan of the music industry. | Getty Images

Prince dead.

I can’t believe it.

Everyone must leave here, but Prince was like the Peter Pan of the music industry.

In fact, Prince is the only entertainer on my bucket list.

Year after year, I’d tell myself this is the year I’m going to see Prince perform live.

I missed him years ago when he came to Chicago because I couldn’t get my hands on tickets. My wish almost came true when Prince was in Vegas, but by the time I got there, there weren’t any tickets for that show either.

A colleague made me sick with envy when she told me she got to see Prince up close at his famous Paisley Park studio when she attended the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Minneapolis last summer.

I was driving on Lake Shore Drive on Thursday when the news came across that police in Minneapolis were conducting a death investigation at the Paisley Park compound.

The thought that it was Prince didn’t even cross my mind.

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Minutes later, a DJ was reporting the pop star had passed at age 57.

Details of his death were sketchy, but TMZ reported that on April 15, Prince’s private jet was forced to land in Illinois because of an undisclosed medical emergency.

I have often wondered how ordinary people could get so attached to a celebrity.

But hearing that Prince was dead was like hearing a member of my own family had died.

Prince had fans all over the world because of his phenomenal mastery of several instruments, and because he had an incredible falsetto voice.

But for me, Prince’s music was personal.

It was the soundtrack of the carefree days of my youth. He also showed me the beauty in being different.

I’d look at him and didn’t know what to think. The ruffles. The mascara. The skintight pants. At that time, no guy — OK, maybe Mick Jagger — could pull off such a stunningly androgynous look and still be incredibly sensual to the ladies.

We absolutely loved us some Prince.

He was light-years ahead of his time when it came down to lyrics as well.

Frankly, when you really listen to Prince’s lyrics, they were pretty risqué for the times.

For instance, these lyrics from “I Wanna Be Your Lover” are definitely for grown folks:

I wanna be your lover
I wanna be the only that makes you come running
I wanna be your lover
I wanna turn you on, turn you out, all night long, make you shout
Oh, lover! Yeah
I wanna be the only one you come for.

And most of the lyrics from “Little Red Corvette” are even more naughty:

I guess I should’ve closed my eyes
When you drove me to the place where your horses run free
‘Cause I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures
Of the jockeys that were there before me.

On a recent road trip with my sister, we were flying down the highway listening to a collection of Prince’s most popular songs when we were struck by the same thought:

How in the world did he get away with those lyrics in the late ’70s and early ’80s?

That he was able to keep such a diverse and devoted fan base throughout the course of his long career is testament to the impact he has had on the music industry and American culture.

He could be naughty without being nasty. He could be risqué without being vulgar. He could capture the cruelty of heartbreak without resorting to misogyny.

He will stay in my head forever.

Because no matter what the calendar shows, I’ll never be able to stop singing “Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.”