The true story of The Singing Nun who topped the Billboard chart in 1963 with her hit song, "Dominique."
The Singing Nun Story
In 1963 a shy Belgian nun took the #1 slot on the hit parade with her song, "Dominique", gathering fans around the world and inspiring many women to enter religous orders.
In 1985 she would commit suicide with her life time companion after after years of substance abuse, sexual denial and financial woes.
This is the story of the sad life and death of Jeannine Deckers, better known to the world as Soeur Sourire, the Singing Nun.
Music from the Soul: The Singing Nun Story is the only English language biography of Jeannine Deckers who was known to the world as Soeur Sourire, The Singing Nun. Her song Dominique topped the music charts in 1963.
"....it reads very well--such
good research and such passion for the subject! Good for you!!"
Donna Woolfolk Cross, author of Pope Joan
In the convent Deckers hated the name "Soeur Sourire", but now found that without it she was nobody. She felt that she was Soeur Sourire, that the image was not just a character to sell records. At this point she could no longer go back to being Jeannine Deckers as it was unthinkable to her to return to being just the baker’s daughter whose only training was in teaching, an occupation she placed in the same murky depths as pastry baking and the Flemish name of Deckers. She could not separate herself from the singing nun persona that had covered the globe. She was Soeur Sourire!
Praise for The Singing Nun Story: The Life and Death of Soeur Sourire
The author of Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross, made this comment about Music from the Soul: The Singing Nun Story."....it reads very well--such good research and such passion for the subject!"
4 out of 5 stars Excited To Read This Book!
Reviewed by Janet Green for Readers Favorite
When you think of a singing nun, visions come to mind of a habit-clad woman dancing in a field of wildflowers on a hill, spinning happily with palms up, belting out a healthy hymn. But the story of the singing nun is anything but that vision. It is a portrayal of the few spots of joy and the consuming tragedy that was this young nun's life, stopped short by suicide, and an inability to feel accepted in a world outside the convent. In this updated biography, D.A. Chadwick compassionately reveals the tumultuous, angst-filled journey traveled by Jeannine Decker, Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile). Through journals, photos, interviews, and other well-documented research, we come to know this nun and her partner Ann Pecher, who many would say was Decker's lover as much as best friend.
Chadwick is striking in her pursuit and defense of the truth with regard to the person beneath the habit and the songs. Soeur Sourire, as Decker preferred to be known, was tragic in character, constantly second-guessing herself, her talents, her commitments, her sexuality, and eventually her ability to survive the overwhelming stressors that were continually dealt her. Through her ordeals, Ann faithfully would join her, even to the very end in her own suicide alongside Decker. For a passionate and well-turned biography, this novel is recommended for its fluid reading and what is probably the closest thing to the truth ever written about this historical figure, Soeur Sourire, the Singing Nun.
Eternal Bookshelf / KtBlog
Nuns are People Too
by Mary Valle
I am rarely moved to tears by prose. Put on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or cue up “Space Oddity” by David Bowie and you will be guaranteed a few of them, if that’s what you want. You probably don’t. But when reading does cause me to cry, it’s somehow more real. It hurts. I can only cite three examples in my entire life of literacy.
The Singing Nun Story: The Life and Death of Soeur Sourire by D.A. Chadwick. Having recently been introduced to the delightful music of Soeur Sourire, or the Singing Nun, or Sister Luc Gabrielle, or Jeannine Deckers, I was interested to learn more about the Belgian Dominican who was only knocked off the top of the American charts by the Beatles. Her captivating voice and sparse arrangements have been a great comfort to me for months.
I didn’t know what I was in for when I cracked this book open. This one got the husbandly “What are you reading? Oh. That looks… good?” Deckers, who was presented as a kitsch object or childish innocent from the get-go—she was called “Sister Smile” in Europe and “The Singing Nun” in America—nonetheless captivated listeners with her clear voice and unerring melodies.
Deckers’ childhood was spent in the company of a rather grim family of bakers; she may have been sexually abused; and wasn’t sure if religious life was quite right either, but options at the time were limited. In the convent, she composed and sang religious songs and was asked to record them so that the records could be given away as gifts. Once the music was heard in the studio, it was decided to be released by the record company. “Dominique,” a song which slyly pokes fun at St. Dominic, became a worldwide hit, and Deckers even got a misleading Hollywood biopic.
Legal and other entanglements ensued, and Deckers left the order to form a “community of two” with her lifelong companion, Annie Pécher. She continued to write and perform and reside in convents and monasteries periodically for the rest of her life. Pécher was a pioneer in the education of autistic children in her own right, but their story ended tragically when the two, hounded by the Belgian government for taxes, took their lives together. The notes they wrote to each other are presented in the book.
Deckers didn’t quit being a Catholic after leaving the Dominicans and spent the rest of her life trying to find some place in the church, but there was no peace for her there. She and Pécher were constantly being “accused” of being lesbians, although Deckers swore they were platonic friends. Whatever form their relationship took, their lifelong partnership and deep love for each other is rare—rare indeed. The troubled Deckers probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as she did without her devoted Annie.
Deckers, who was presented as a novelty act, was nonetheless a truly talented singer/songwriter and forebearer of what was to become one of the dominant modes of pop music in the 1960s: folk. Because she was a nun, and a woman, and wearing a habit and then not, the world looked upon her as being “small” or “silly” or just a joke. I’m reminded of another artist/nun, Sister Corita, who never received the same art-world accolades as her male brethren working in the same field, at the same time, even though Corita had great popular success. If you’ve ever wondered what is even more absurd than a woman artist, I’ve got the answer right here. A nun artist.
Chadwick, who did an excellent job researching and uncovering the details of Deckers’ troubled life (pushing on through resistance from various Belgians who regard Deckers as an embarrassment) ends the book with a remembrance of herself as a child listening to the Singing Nun, looking out at the trees through her window at the darkening sky, and wishing that someday she would know the peace she heard in the voice of Jeannine Deckers.
Just a little pollen or dust or something, don’t mind me.
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