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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Jeanine Deckers, "The Singing Nun"

Jeanine Deckers, known in English 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 Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song "Dominique". In the English-language world, she is credited on her records as "The Singing Nun".

While in the convent, she wrote, sang and performed her own songs, which were so well received by the order and at retreats that the monastery decided to let her record an album, which visitors and retreatists to the monastery would be able to purchase.
In 1963, the album was recorded in Brussels at Philips. The single "Dominique" became an international hit. Many radio stations in the U.S. played it and other softer hits more often in the wake of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Overnight, the Dominican nun was an international celebrity with the stage name of Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile).

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"

Deckers did not gain much from this international fame, and her second LP, Her Joys, Her Songs, did not get much attention and disappeared almost as soon as it was released. Most of her earnings were in fact taken away by Philips, her producer, while the rest would go to the convent.

In 1967, Deckers left her monastery to continue her musical career under the name Luc Dominique. She could not keep her initial name "Sœur Sourire", as Philips owned the rights. She released an album called I Am Not a Star in Heaven. Her repertoire consisted of religious songs and songs for children. 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.

Deckers became increasingly critical of Catholic doctrines and eventually became a public advocate for contraception. 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 artificial birth control under the name Luc Dominique. It was a commercial failure.

Her musical career over, Deckers opened a school for autistic children in Belgium. In the late 1970s, the Belgian government claimed that she owed approximately $63,000 USD in back taxes. Deckers countered that the royalties from her recording were given to the convent and therefore she was not liable for payment of any personal income 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 Sœur Sourire, to score a hit with a disco synthesizer version of "Dominique", but this last attempt to resume her singing career failed. 

Citing their financial difficulties in a note, she and her companion of ten years, Annie Pécher, both committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on 29 March 1985.She was 51.

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