This was $3.00. I had seen it in the used racks for some time before I finally bit. Not sure why the day I bought it was that day. I also did not know the back story.
The Singing Nun, aka Soeur Sourire or Sister Smile, aka Sister Luc-Gabrielle, aka. Jeanne Deckers was born in Brussels in 1933. At a young age, she showed an interest in both music and being a nun. She would join the Missionary Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fichermont in 1959. During her time in the convent, she would write, arrange, and perform her own songs which were well received by her fellow sisters as well as visitors. she was encouraged by her superiors to record an album, which she did for Phillips in 1961. This is that album. The single, “Dominique” became a Top Ten hit all over the world, hitting #1 on the US Billboard charts. The album would sell nearly $2 million copies and her life was made into a movie, The Singing Nun starring Debbie Reynolds, although Decker would call the film complete fiction .
This is the part where the cheesey VH1 Behind the Music clichés kick in. Deckers did not see much gain from her new found fame as Phillips took in a big chunk of the money while her convent got the rest. A second album did not do as well. Furthermore, Deckers felt censored by her superiors, only being allowed to write happy songs and the like. A greater rift between her and the Catholic Church caused her to leave the convent in 1966. A song she wrote a year later, a pro-contraception song called “Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill” did not help the matter. Also, the fact that she could not record under her previous monikers hindered what was left of her career.
There was some bright spots later in life, however. She enjoyed a brief but successful period in the 70’s. Also, despite maintaining a simple and mostly chaste existence outside the convent, fell in love and entered a relationship with her roommate, Anne Pecher, who would start a center for autistic children. But just as things seemed to be improving, bad luck struck again. The Belgium government informed Deckers that she owed $63,000 in back taxes from her first album although she never saw a cent. The convent denied any responsibility for this debt and as a result, the autism center was forced to close. Unable to pull herself out of this hole, Decker and Pecher killed themselves by taking an overdose of pills and alcohol in 1985. As per their wishes, they are buried together in the Cheremont Cemetery in Wavre, Walloon Brabant, where they died.
As stated above, this was Decker’s first and most successful album. It is collection of songs accompanied by acoustic guitar. Some songs have a scant female chorus to them. The songs are mostly religious but all are upbeat. The simplicity of the arrangement puts the focus on Decker. The songs are all song in French. There are a lot of good moments on this album, including “Dominque”, “Soeur Adele”, a ballad about her guitar, and “Fleur de Cactus” all stand out.
The album included a illustrated story of Soeur Sourire, a lyric sheet with English translations, and a pouch where watercolors of the convent apparently used to be.
For a sample, I decided to go with the big hit single, “Dominique”.
A simple and satisfactory album.