Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Sad, Strange Tale of The Singing Nun

Sister Luc Gabrielle (real name Jeannine Deckers who was born in 1928 in Belgium) joined a Dominican Convent at Fichermont near Waterloo, Belgium.. For many years she wrote and sang songs to her own guitar accompaniment. In 1961 she started to entertain the young girls who studied at the convent, they were so impressed and she was encouraged by their enthusiasm so she approached Philips Records in Brussels. They agreed to a small recording session with no real expectations, but the sound of Sister Luc Gabrielle and chorus of nuns impresssed the record company and soon the world.

They released an album ‘Sister Smile’ (Soeur Sourire) that included Dominique, sung in French, which came out as a single. It went to No.4 in the U.K. and topped the American chart for a staggering 4 weeks. In the States she achieved the rare feat of a simultaneous No.1 single and No.1 album, both of which sold over a million copies. Dominique won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Gospel or Religious Song’, subsequent releases failed to chart, but all the royalties she earned from her moment of fame were handed over to the Dominican Convent who spent the money on foreign missions.

In ‘68 Soeur Sourire, as she was dubbed by Philips, left the convent, not hitting the headlines again until April ‘85 when she and her companion Annie Berchet were found dead in a flat at Waure near Brussels. Both had taken an overdose of barbiturates. The tragedy happened after the Belgian authorities demanded the tax from the monies earned during her fleeting fifteen minutes of fame. Deckers had given all her earnings to the convent, but they refused to pay tax. This apparently left the former nun in such a state of depression that she took her own life. In a joint suicide note, the lady who was once portrayed in the film ‘The Singing Nun’ by Debbie Reynolds wrote "We are going together to meet God our Father. He alone can save us from this financial disaster".


Selena Dreamy said...

"We are going together to meet God our Father. He alone can save us from this financial disaster".

This, of course, is not how God saw Himself, and as far as He was concerned, the Sisters were missing the essence of His mystery - but, being of a far less critical disposition, Richard, I enjoyed the poignancy of your story immensely...


jams o donnell said...

It was a sad end. I had a scan of you tube. I didn't realise her last recording was a disco version of Dominique.

Sean Jeating said...

Nice and honourable folks who would take their sister's money, and let her down when the chips are down.
Their Lord will have been delighted.

Can't understand the state, as well. Why didn't they claim the tax where the money had flown?
As you wrote: Sad and (very) strange.

r morris said...

If she donated her money to the convent, it should not have been taxable. Should have been written off as a charitable deduction. Now, if the church refuses to pay on it, why were they hounding poor Sister Sourire? They should have gone after the church for tax evasion.
Very sad story, and very interesting.