RIP – The Singing Nun

Day 326 of Colourisation Project – March 29

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

When police officers found the lifeless bodies of 52-year-old Jeanine Deckers and her lover, Annie Pecher on this day, March 29, 1985, in the small Belgian town of Wavre, they also discovered a note which in part read;

“We go to eternity in peace…We have reached the end, spiritually and financially and now we go to God. We hope God will welcome us. He saw us suffer, so He should show clemency. He alone can save us from this financial disaster.”

In this note they also requested that they be buried together with a Catholic funeral and called for discretion in the coverage of their deaths.

The Singing Nun

Photographer Unknown ~ The Singing Nun – Jeanine Deckers 1963 ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Backtrack 20 years to 1965; I can clearly recall the angelic prepubescent voices of Catholic schoolgirls reverberating throughout the cloisters of my convent school in Melbourne, singing the relentlessly cheerful and catchy, French song Domin-ique -nique -nique (the -niques seemed to go on forever), made famous by Sister Luc Gabrielle, “The Singing Nun.” It had became an instant worldwide hit in 1963, outselling Elvis Presley during its time on Billboard’s Hot 100. The Singing Nun herself even appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The song catapulted to No 1 in the US charts ahead of The Beatles, earning her a Grammy award and making the wimpled sister the most unlikely superstar the world had ever seen. MGM studios wasted no time filming a saccharine, semi-biographical musical titled The Singing Nun. Released in 1966, it starred Debbie Reynolds.

No one really had any idea what the lyrics meant but we could all sing the refrain. I thought it was a song about a French maiden by the name of Dominique. Quelle tragédie! How was I to know the song was about Saint Dominic, a Spanish-born priest and founder of the Dominican Order, of which the blessed Singing Nun was a member?

Who could possibly have imagined the fate that was to befall this reluctant megastar of the Catholic church.  What innocent little babes we were back then. If the nuns knew then what was to become of our Singing Nun, they would never have exposed us to her music…they would have stuck to the regular digest of staple hymns like Gloria in Excelsis Deo and The Lord is My Shepherd.  (Which reminds me…why are hymns always 5 octaves higher than is humanly possible for anyone to sing?)

Who could have foreseen that by 1985 Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile as she was known in Belgium and France) would have nothing to smile about. She would be disowned by her Catholic convent, fighting a battle with alcohol, tranquillisers and the tax authorities and ultimately die from a massive overdose of barbiturates and alcohol along with her partner of 25 years?

The nuns certainly wanted nothing to do with her, when she left the convent in 1966 to live with her lover and pursue her singing career.  You can imagine the moral outrage and salacious scandal that ensued.

Reclaiming her birth name, Jeanine Deckers, had found fame hard to bear. She had become addicted to alcohol and painkillers.  Mounting pressure from the tax department for taxes from her music forced the closure of a home for autistic children in 1983 that Deckers and Pecher had set up together.

Although Dominique grossed over $100,000 in royalties, her vow of poverty meant that all proceeds from the song had to go to the convent. She had taken nothing for herself. Deckers suddenly found herself facing a massive tax bill. With back taxes and legal fees mounting, neither the convent nor the Church offered her any assistance.

Deckers desperately tried to pursue her recording career but without the wimple the novelty was gone. She alienated her Catholic fan base even further when she released a song in praise of contraception called Glory Be To God For The Golden Pill. Another song, entitled Sister Smile Is Dead, encapsulated her feelings and state of mind. Also a catchy tune sung in French, you can hear it here. In the early 1980s Deckers released a disco version of Dominique but that didn’t do well. Nothing could match the success of her first song.

Crumbling under the weight of financial pressures, the women took their course of action. Decker was 52 and Pecher was 41.

Their story caused a sensation; Singing Nun In Lesbian Suicide Pact… tawdry headlines like this one were splashed across national newspapers around the world.

Mother Superior’s only comment was: “The lady is no longer a member of our order.”

After a joint church service, Jeanine Deckers and Annie Pecher, were laid to rest together under a large tombstone with their names inscribed on one side and Sister Sourire on the other. Above it, the words, J’ai vu voler son ame a travers les nuages. (I saw her soul flying through clouds.)

Rest in Peace, good women.


Once again for your enjoyment I have included a video clip of The Singing Nun performing Dominique. The quality of the video is pretty poor but in some places not too bad. The audio is reasonably good so persevere with this just for the music.


Domin-ique is remembered chiefly for its refrain, which goes:

Domi-nique -nique -nique s’en allait tout simplement,
Routier, pauvre et chantant.
En tous chemins, en tous lieux,
Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu,
Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.

A literal English translation is:

Domi-nique -nique -nique went about simply,
a poor singing traveller.
On every road, in every place,
he talks only of the Good Lord,
he talks only of the Good Lord.

Click here for the full lyrics in French

Image | This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, France, History, Music, Photography, Uncategorized, Women, Women In Music and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to RIP – The Singing Nun

  1. Gawd I was 7 when The Singing Nun film came out, I remember this song. What a sad story, and why am I not surprised that the convent took all the money and then gave nothing back. Great job on t he colourising.


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