Dominique

Album: The Singing Nun (1963)
Charted: 7 1

Songfacts®:

  • The Singing Nun was Sister Luc-Gabrielle (born Jeanine Deckers), from a Fichermont, Belgium convent. Not to be confused with The Flying Nun. That was Sally Field.
  • The nun wrote several tunes that won prizes at religious youth retreats. One of the order's elders asked her to record an LP, of which the convent could make a few hundred copies to distribute as gifts. Luc-Gabrielle and a chorus of four other nuns recorded her songs at the Phillips studios in Brussels, but when the executives of the record company heard the songs, the LP was commercially released (with the credit to "Soeur Sourire" - Sister Smile) in Europe to great success.
  • The album was released in the US as The Singing Nun, but there was no American reaction until "Dominique" was released as a single. Then, both the album and the single worked up to the top of their charts. It was the first time a single topped the Hot 100 at the same time its LP topped the Billboard albums chart.
  • "Dominique" eulogizes the founder of the Dominican order: St. Dominic, a priest from the 12th century. It had the stamp of approval from Luc-Gabrielle's mother superior, stating that the song treated St. Dominic "with familiarity and a touch of impertinence."
  • Sister Luc-Gabrielle sang this in her native French. Most listeners had no idea what the song was about, but enjoyed her voice and the buoyant melody. The lyrics are not so cheerful, describing St. Dominic's struggles to establish the order, including how he was humiliated and labeled a heretic.
  • In 1966, a movie starring Debbie Reynolds called The Singing Nun about Sister Luc-Gabrielle was released. The film, which bombed, took great liberties, glossing and dramatizing the real story. In the film, a version with English lyrics that had nothing to do with the original was used.
  • After the release of the movie, Sister Luc-Gabrielle left the convent and tried to maintain her recording career, this time under her real name - Jeanine Decker. She became a bit of a rebel, with singles like "Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill," a hymn to birth control. She embraced her lesbian sexuality and was pursued by the Belgian government over unpaid taxes relating to this song (all proceeds from the song went to the order, but she was still stuck with the tax bill). Drug problems complicated matters even more.
  • In 1985, Jeanine Deckers and her partner of 10 years, Annie Pecher, committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates. Their center for autistic children had closed its doors, and they "lost all courage in the face of a losing battle with the tax people."

    The pair were buried together with a quote from this song on their headstone: "J'ai vu voler son âme. À travers les nuages," which translates to, "I've seen her soul fly through the clouds."
  • We thought you'd enjoy the promotional copy for the film Sister Smile - The Tragic Tale Of The Singing Nun, as it's the first time we've seen a movie described as "boldly speculative yet persuasive." Take it for what it's worth:

    Back in late 1963, a Belgian nun known only as Soeur Sourire, or Sister Smile, topped America's pop music charts with the relentlessly cheerful tune "Dominique," from an album that sold 1.5 million copies. From the little that is known of the ill-fated nun's life, Roger Deutsch has made the boldly speculative yet persuasive Italian-language film Suor Sorriso in which the nun (Ginevra Colonna) emerges as a tormented, unstable woman who abruptly left the convent after her recording triumph before taking her final vows.

    Running a shelter for wayward girls, she and another ex-nun (Simona Caparrini) enter a passionate, tumultuous and destructive affair. Colonna's volcanic Deckers craves spiritual redemption as well as the other woman's love but is so beset by demons that she embarks on a flamboyant, drug-fueled downward spiral that ultimately engulfs her lover as well as herself.
  • The Singing Nun topped the album chart in the period following President Kennedy's assassination as America sought atonement by turning to religious material. It was finally usurped from the #1 spot in February 1964 by The Beatles' first chart-topper Meet The Beatles!.
  • This was the first song by a Belgian artist to reach #1 in the US; it remained the only one until Gotye hit the top with "Somebody That I Used To Know" in 2012 (he was born in Belgium, but moved to Australia at age 2).
  • The Singing Nun recorded a disco version of this song in 1982 when she was trying to raise cash to pay off her debts. It went nowhere.

Comments: 15

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 5th 1964, the Singing Nun performed "Dominique" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    At the time it was at #4 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; was #1 from December 1st to December 28th, 1963...
    R.I.P. Jeanine 'Singing Nun' Deckers (1933 - 1985) and Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny"Dominique" peaked at #1 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100; it had entered the chart on November 9th and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on this same day it reached #1 (again for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Hits chart...
    On both charts is was proceeded at #1 by "I'm Leaving It Up To You" by Dale & Grace and succeeded at #1 by "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton.
  • Sioraf from Macroon, IrelandSad stuff.
  • Jojo from Kuwait, KuwaitI remember listening to this song when I was in grade school in the Philippines. That period in my life was to me...magical. It's so sad to think that many good artists suddenly bloom only to lose to the tragedies of this life. Van Gogh, The Cascades, John Lennon, and many others. And yes, Sor sourire(very,very sad). I wished she stayed in the convent. But I guess that's just the way it is. People leave their memories when they are the most beautiful in life. That's what makes their memories immortal. Thanks for uploading this rare gem of a song.
  • Milka from Paris, FranceOne thing you have to know about this song is that a part of its success comes in France on the game on words : " Dominique nique nique " in the french slang language " "nique " means to have sex with some one .
  • Adrian from Johor Bahru, MalaysiaStrangely, I have never heard any cover versions of this song unlike "Sukiyaki", another foreign language hit which topped the US charts in the same year as Dominique, 1963 and there were numerous covers of that song. I guess its very difficult to cover. Ironically, the late Kyu Sakamoto the singer of Sukiyaki also died tragically in the same year as the Singing Nun, in 1985 though under different circumstances. Sakamoto died in a plane crash.
  • Rob from San Diego, CaI found the translation for the lyrics here
    http://www.useless-knowledge.com/1234/06june/article180.html
    The sister's personal story is as tragic as this song is beautiful.
  • Tony Cook from London, United Kingdomwhat a truly lovely song some may call it cheesy but i dont care, reminds me of my great aunty eileen who was in the salvation army and taught us wrong and right, across the family hence thats why we have all growen up and been of good charicter. and look to do good in all that we do.
  • Carol from Clayton, CaMy parents had this record when I was little, and although it was in French, we loved it. Was sorry to hear several years ago that she had taken her life. Never knew why until reading the comments before mine.
  • Darrell from EugeneDON'T LISTEN TO THIS SONG IN THE DARK! I repeat, DON'T! I listened to this song once on a battery-powered radio during a power outage in a bitter Alaskan winter during a musk ox-hunting trip in 1991 (I got an ox and made the pelt into a bedspread), there were no heat or lights, and the sound of this song was so haunting that I just wrapped myself in the Kodiak bear pelt that was on the floor beside me and remained scared until "Indiana Wants Me" by R. Dean Taylor came on. Obviously, I am different than others, but Andria (my girlfriend of 7 weeks) and I think that this is good advice.
  • John from Fort Worth, TxWhen I was a small child this song was very popular. I watched the feature film starring Debbie Reynolds on TV when I was seven years old; I attended Catholic school then and everything was good.

    In my teen years I bought a copy of the single and listened to it over and over even though the lyrics were in French. I've learned so much more of life in the decades that have followed.

    I remember learning of the writer/singer's separation from the order and of her tragic death some time later.

    Sister has left us all a dear and memorable experience with the song, "Dominique."

    John Martin, 45
    Fort Worth, Texas
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnOne of the most unique number one songs of the rock era, Dominique was one of the first songs in a foreign language to reach the top of the charts and the only number one sung entirely in French. Unfortunately, The Singing Nun is no longer with us. She had her 15 minutes of fame.
  • Frank from Westminster, ScCan someone out there provide a literal translation in English for these lyrics?
  • Eloise from London, EnglandMy God, I never realised this song (or at least the woman who sang it) had such a history. In the UK it was just one of those novelty records that fades and is forgotten. What a tragedy about the ex-nun and her partner and the autistic kids' centre. If you were trying to write something that schmaltzy in real life, no-one would believe you!
  • Ted from Loveland, CoThe Singing Nun is actually Sister Luc-Gabrielle, member of a Belgian Dominican order convent. She also recorded as Sister Sourire, French for "Sister Smile." This song, about St. Dominic, Spanish-born priest and founder of her order
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