The Singing Nun’s 1963 #1 hit, “Dominique” is one of the strangest #1s ever!
No, the Singing Nun was not the Flying Nun (not as far as we know anyway!). The Flying Nun was a late 60s TV sitcom starring Sally Fields who won an Academy Award in 1985 for Places in the Heart. (Her famous acceptance speech included the oft-quoted, “You like me, you really like me!”)
The Singing Nun was actually a nun, not an actress. (Although The Singing Nun, a 1966 movie starring Debbie Reynolds, was loosely based on her life.)
To make things more confusing, the Singing Nun had three names. She was born Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers, aka Jeanine Deckers, in 1933. As a member of the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium, her name was Sister Luc Gabriel. The Philips record label renamed her Soeur Sourire (“Sister Smile”), and “Dominique” was released in December of 1963 under that stage name.
According to Allmusic.com, “Sister Luc-Gabrielle, who entered the religious order in 1959, penned ‘Dominique’ and recorded it and a few of her other compositions for personal release only, mainly to be used as gifts. When the Philips Record Company discovered her potential appeal, they offered the nun a contract and christened her Soeur Sourire. To American audiences she was the Singing Nun. She did not actively seek fame, although she sang for Ed Sullivan’s television program in 1964 via tape. Live performances did not appeal to her, and in fact even the taped broadcast was almost blocked by her Mother Superior. She underscored her aversion for the limelight in 1967 by releasing the album I Am Not a Star.
“Her successful single did not endear her to the Dominicans’ Mother Superior, who viewed the popular song as ‘impertinent.’ It probably didn’t help matters when MGM based a musical on her life in 1965 and cast Debbie Reynolds as a moped-riding nun who was romantically drawn to Chad Everett.
“That same year, the Singing Nun withdrew from the public eye and gave up her burgeoning musical career. By 1966, she had a complete change of heart, returned to music, and quit the convent. After the release of I Am Not a Star, her music tackled controversial subjects. ‘The Golden Pill’ concerned the issue of birth control pills, of which she was in favor and the Pope condemned. Together with a woman named Annie Pescher in Belgium, she founded a school for children who suffered from the disability of autism…
“Unfortunately, her previous success in music did not bring lasting happiness. In fact, it added to her troubles. The Singing Nun and Pescher took their lives in 1985 with a combination of pills and alcohol when the government ordered her to pay back taxes amounting to more than 60,000 dollars which accrued from her time as a singer and recording artist. The demand, which put their school in jeopardy, came despite the fact that the Singing Nun had given all profits to her order.”
(Words and Music by Soeur Sourire)
French version, as recorded:
Dominique -nique -nique s’en allait tout simplemen
Routier, pauvre et chantant.
En tous chemins, en tous lieux,
Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu,
Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu
Dominic traveled around simply,
a poor singing traveler.
On every road, in every place,
he spoke only about the Good Lord,
only about the Good Lord.