The Singing Nun

The Singing Nun

Infobox Musical artist
Name = The Singing Nun
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers
Alias = Soeur Sourire
Luc Dominique
Born = birth date|1933|10|17|mf=y
Wavre, Wallonia, Belgium
Died = death date and age|1985|3|29|1933|10|17|mf=y
Wavre, Wallonia, Belgium
Origin = Wavre, Wallonia, Belgium
Instrument = Vocals, Guitar
Voice_type =
Genre = Folk
Years_active =
Label = Philips Records

Jeanine Deckers (October 17, 1933 – March 29, 1985), better known internationally as The Singing Nun, was a Belgian nun, and a member (as Sister Luc Gabriel) of the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium. She became internationally famous in 1963 as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song "Dominique". In the English language world, she is mostly referred to as "The Singing Nun".


Early years

Born Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers, she was a nun in the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Fichermont, Belgium. She used to write, sing and perform her own material there, which was so well received that the monastery decided to let her record an album. Visitors of the monastery would then be able to take a copy home.

In 1963, the album was recorded in Brussels at Philips. The single "Dominique" became an international hit. Many radio stations in the U.S. included "Dominique" and other softer hits more often in their rotations in the wake of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Overnight, the Dominican nun was an international celebrity with the stage name of Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile). She gave concerts and appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964. [cite book|last=Bronson|first=Fred |title=The Billboard Book of Number One Hits|publisher=Billboard Books|date=2003|pages=141|isbn=0-823-07677-6] To date, "Dominique" is one of only two Belgian number one hit singles in the United States. (Technotronic's hit "Pump Up The Jam" reached number one in 1989).

Effects of fame and further musical career

In 1966, a movie called "The Singing Nun" was made about her, starring Debbie Reynolds in the title role. Deckers rejected the film as "fiction". Sally Field spoofed the role starting the following year as the title character in the television series "The Flying Nun".

In 1967, Deckers left her monastery to continue her musical career under the name Luc Dominique and released an album called "I Am Not a Star in Heaven". Her repertoire consisted of religious songs and songs for children. Most of her earnings went to the convent. Despite her renewed musical emphasis, Deckers gradually faded into obscurity, possibly because of her own disdain for fame: she was never able to duplicate the success of her one hit wonder.

Political views

Although she was deeply religious, she was also increasingly critical of some of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine and eventually became an advocate of birth control. She also agreed with John Lennon's statements about Jesus in 1966. In 1967, she recorded a song entitled "Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill" — a paean to contraception — under the name Luc Dominique. It met with commercial failure.cite web|url=,,312689,00.html|title=The Singing Nun's Story|last=Purtell|first=Tim |date=1992-12-18||accessdate=2008-07-26]

Last remaining years

Her musical career over, Deckers opened a school for autistic children in Belgium. In the late 1970s (mentioned in the July 22, 1978 broadcast of American Top 40), the Belgian government claimed that she owed around US$63,000 in back taxes. Deckers countered that the money was given to the convent and therefore exempt from taxes. Lacking any receipts to prove her donations to the convent and her religious order, Deckers ran into heavy financial problems. In 1982 she tried, once again as Soeur Sourire, to score a hit with a disco version of "Dominique", but this last attempt to resume her singing career failed.

She and her companion of ten years, Anna Pécher, both committed suicide by an intentional overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. [cite news|url=,12102,1369880,00.html|title=The curse of the Christmas single|date=2004-12-11|publisher="The Guardian"]

In 1996, "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun" premiered Off-Broadway at The Grove Street Playhouse. The play, which was written and directed by Blair Fell, was loosely based on the events in Deckers' life. The production, which featured several musical numbers, followed the renamed character Jeanine Fou's life from her entry into the convent until her death with Pécher. The play's critical success [ [ "New York Times" review] ] Dead link|date=July 2008 led the Catholic League to speak out publicly against the production. [cite web|url=|title=The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights|date=1996||accessdate=2008-07-26]

In 2006, a musical version of Fell's play was staged during the New York Musical Theater Festival, produced by George DeMarco and David Gerard, both of whom produced the 1996 production. The musical featured music and lyrics by Andy Monroe and a book by Fell (who also contributed additional lyrics); it was directed by Michael Schiralli. [cite web|url=|title=Photo Coverage: NYMF's 'Singing Nun'|last=Strothmann|first=Ben |date=2006-10-03||accessdate=2008-07-26]

Further reading

*Luc Maddelein & Leen van den Berg, "Soeur Sourire. Zie me graag", Leuven, Davidsfonds, 2005, ISBN 90-5826-330-4


*Florence Delaporte: "Soeur Sourire: Brûlée aux feux de la rampe" (1996)


External links

* [ The Singing Nun] at Allmusic
* [ The Singing Nun] at Discogs

NAME= Nun, The Singing
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Deckers, Jeanne-Paule Marie
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Nun, singer, musician
DATE OF BIRTH= October 17, 1933
PLACE OF BIRTH=Wavre, Wallonia, Belgium
DATE OF DEATH= March 29, 1985
PLACE OF DEATH=Wavre, Wallonia, Belgium

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