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Jeanine Deckers ( – ), better known in English as The Singing Nun, was a Belgianmarker nun, and a member (as Sister Luc Gabriel) of the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgiummarker. 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 on 17 October 1933, she was a nun in the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Waterloomarker, Belgiummarker. While in the convent, she wrote, sang and performed her own songs, which was so well received that the monastery decided to let her record an album, which visitors to the monastery would then be able to take home.

In 1963, the album was recorded in Brusselsmarker at Philips. The single "Dominique" became an international hit. Many radio stations in the U.S. played "Dominique" and other softer hits more often in the wake of the John F. Kennedy assassinationmarker. Overnight, the Dominican nun was an international celebrity with the stage name of (Sister Smile). She gave concerts and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on 5 January 1964. , "Dominique" is the only Belgian number one hit single in the United States.

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.

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 " ", 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 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.

Last years

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 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.

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

Theatrical portrayals

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 NY Times review stated the play "milks much of its comic mileage from the incongruous, and willfully tasteless, pairing of its holy setting and its trashy, Jacqueline Susann-style dialogue...In dressing up despair in barbed frivolity, Mr. Fell provides his own skewed equivalent of tragic catharsis.". The Catholic League spoke out publicly against the production, which was so successful that its run was extended.

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.

In 2009, Soeur Sourire, a Franco-Belgian biopic starring Cécile de France as Deckers was released in cinemas.

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)

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