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September 24, 2007 7:12 AM   Subscribe

The sad story of Sœur Sourire, the Singing Nun.

The first few of these links are available courtesy of the post at I'm Learning To Share! and the rest are a YouTube roundup of photo montages with music by Jeanine Deckers:
posted by carsonb (27 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good post, thanks for sharing.
posted by briank at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2007


Acck. Now I'm ready to slit my wrists.
posted by etaoin at 7:28 AM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the post -- my mother had the Singing Nun album when I was a little kid, and that's how I first learned (Belgian-accented) French. Deckers was a remarkable songwriter and performer, with a great ear for a hook -- as with all good gospel/devotional music, you don't have to profess any religion to enjoy it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2007


WTF Belgium?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:52 AM on September 24, 2007


Just seeing the name was enough to get that damned Dominique song stuck in my head. Thanks?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:54 AM on September 24, 2007


A little bit of trivia: the verb "niquer", borrowed from the arab nakaḥa ("to have sex") thanks to North African colonists and immigrants, has become a widespread slang word in French (I guess it wasn't in the 60s when the song "Dominique" was written). So, to modern Gallic ears, the famous line "Dominique nique nique" actually sounds like "Dominique fuck fuck".
posted by elgilito at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2007


Also WTF Church. All they had to do was tell the tax people that yes, they did get the royalties. No skin off their nose, right?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:50 AM on September 24, 2007


I thought she had died aboard an airplane that was being landed by a stewardess.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:19 AM on September 24, 2007


We have her albums at my radio station. I hadn't known she was Belgian (or the depressing life story). Great post.
posted by phrontist at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2007


That thud, thud, thud you can hear on Dominique Électronique-nique-nique isn't the sound of the bass drum on an 808. It's actually Giorgio Moroder, banging his head against his Moog Modular.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2007


I thought she had died aboard an airplane that was being landed by a stewardess.

I think you're confusing the Singing Nun with the Flying Nun
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2007


Yeah, Singing Nun = Debbie Reynolds
         Flying Nun   = Sally Field
posted by carsonb at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2007


This brought back memories of Catholic grade school. Taught by Sisters of Mercy. Who all sang along to the album. I need a glass of wine now.
posted by hollygoheavy at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2007


What an interesting post. Had no idea. the song always seemed slightly ridiculous to me but likable still. Now, reading her story I feel an unexpected jolt of outrage. Getting the shaft via a religious institution and the tax man were apparently so overwhelming to her that she took her life.

aw, Such a sad, truly tragic story! That damn Le Couvent de Fichermont (Fichermont Convent) in Waterloo, Belgium owes her a global apology! They certainly created a martyr.

She donated all, decades, of her proceeds of a career they foisted on her, demonized her for, scapegoated her for, rejected her for, ripped her off for and then let the Belgian tax man unjustly drive her into abject destitution, loss of her work with autistic kids...

Boy, do they have blood on their hands. I'll never hear that song again without feeling outrage about what happened to her.

She got raked over the tax coals. Sounds like some bureaucrat was scapegoating her. And she'd given her proceeds to the damn convent that trashed her. What a pity she didn't live in the internet age, I think she wouldn't have suicided because the truth would have been known, she could have had more support. She had a lovely voice.

And yes, that song has unusually tenacious Viral Meme Power. I remember it along with another song from about that time, Guantanamera.

Looking up other songs by Jeanine Deckers I came across an amusingly misspelled entry, The Signing Nun, and thought it was a hand sign version, which might have been fun. But it was just the misspelled disco rendition.

I've a mind to write that convent an angry letter. At least a book was written about Jeanine Deckers, Seur Sourire: Brulee aux feux de la rampe by Florence Delaporte. But the title, which translates as something like 'burned up in the limelight', implies it was the limelight that killed her, when I think the convent and tax man bullied her into abject depression with their malice.

It feels just and good at least the truth is getting known now.

Anyway, *stops ranting

thanks for the excellently put together and informative post carsonb.
posted by nickyskye at 10:26 AM on September 24, 2007


I loved the Singing Nun's Jive! album.

actually you guys are missing a different reference.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:54 AM on September 24, 2007


Lentrohamsanin, do want to start a support group or lynch mob... or both?

'nique, 'nique, 'nique... Dammit!
Oh, and good post!

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:18 AM on September 24, 2007


That thud, thud, thud you can hear on Dominique Électronique-nique-nique isn't the sound of the bass drum on an 808. It's actually Giorgio Moroder, banging his head against his Moog Modular.

i heart you, petermcdermott.
posted by CitizenD at 11:47 AM on September 24, 2007


I heart all dancing nancies, CitizenD
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:59 AM on September 24, 2007


Argh! Now I have that song stuck in my head.
posted by mike3k at 1:45 PM on September 24, 2007


Good God. That's just a horrific story of a life crushed by the juggernaut roll of big institutions. Poor woman.
posted by Abiezer at 2:08 PM on September 24, 2007


And yet she still managed to wrench some beauty out of it, if not enough to keep her alive.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:24 PM on September 24, 2007


Eh, never heard this story - what a sad ending, and very dissonant to associate it with the perky, optimistic song. Sad story!
posted by madamjujujive at 6:53 PM on September 24, 2007


elgilito, some consider "niquer" comes from the very formal expression "faire la nique" (to give a condescending nod). See references to this in many old French dictionaries.
posted by rom1 at 12:22 AM on September 25, 2007


Fun to hear about niquer and the mischievous aspect to the song.
posted by nickyskye at 6:07 AM on September 25, 2007


You know how on a clear summer night you can lie on your back in a field and connect the brightest stars into recognizable shapes? That's kind of like what elgilito and rom1 are doing with the french language and this song. Meanwhile, frecklefaerie is including streetlamps, airplanes!, and city lights in her designs.
posted by carsonb at 6:43 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


A l'époque où Jean Sans Terre,
D'Angleterre était le roi
Dominique notre père,
Combattit les albigeois.


(Sorry, old joke.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:56 PM on September 25, 2007


Sad, but oddly refreshing...to hear something inspiring outrage, that is in no way connected to the Bushites! But it figures, coming from those Waloons (/obligatory Flemish snark).

I think the notion of the Singing Nun dying in a plane crash was a salute to Airplane, not the Flying Nun.
posted by Goofyy at 5:56 AM on September 26, 2007


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