There is still hope for us all ... You never can tell what will be successful
Perhaps only during the unique moment in pop-music history that fell between those historic landmarks could an actual Belgian nun have ascended to the American pop charts with a jaunty tune about a Catholic saint—sung in French, no less. That’s exactly what happened on this day in 1963, when Soeu Sourire—billed in English as “The Singing Nun”—scored a No 1 hit with the song “Dominique.”
“Domnique” was recorded in early 1963 in Brussels, Belgium, by Sister Luc-Gabrielle (nee Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers) and four companions from the Dominican convent in nearby Fichermont. Originally a vanity pressing intended only for distribution as gifts among their fellow nuns, the album of light, religious-themed tunes recorded by the Fichermont nuns was impressive enough to Phillips Records executives that it was released commercially in Europe shortly thereafter. Already a huge hit on the continent, the album and its lead artist were re-christened as “The Singing Nun” prior to crossing the Atlantic in the fall of 1963. “Dominique”—a song honoring St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican order—proved popular enough not only to hit No 1 on this day in 1963, but to stay there for four weeks and block “Louie, Louie” from ever reaching the top of the pop charts.
"Dominique" reached the Top 10 in 11 countries in late 1963 and early 1964, topping the chart in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It reached the Top 5 in Norway, Denmark, Ireland and South Africa, with the song making it into the lower reaches of the Top 10 in the Netherlands, West Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Though the 1966 Debby Reynolds movie of the same name would do little to indicate it, the Singing Nun went on to live a deep, complex and ultimately tragic life. After achieving pop immortality, Deckers walked away from stardom and from her church and adopted a new stage name: Luc Dominique. An unsuccessful album honoring the birth control pill was the highlight of Deckers’ post-Singing Nun career, however. She also attempted a comeback in 1982 with a disco version of “Dominique” that failed to catch on as the original had back in 1963. Deckers’ career and life ended tragically in 1985, when she and her longtime female companion committed suicide in the face of a massive tax bill from the Belgian government relating to unpaid taxes on royalties that Deckers had donated in full to the Roman Catholic Church.
It is remembered chiefly for its refrain, which goes:
- Domi-nique -nique -nique s'en allait tout simplement,
- Routier, pauvre et chantant.
- En tous chemins, en tous lieux,
- Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu,
- Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.
- Domi-nique -nique -nique went about simply,
- a poor singing traveller.
- On every road, in every place,
- he talks only of the Good Lord,
- he talks only of the Good Lord.
- Domi-nique -nique -nique, o'er the land he plods along,
- And sings a little song.
- Never asking for reward,
- He just talks about the Lord,
- He just talks about the Lord.
A lift a glass to the Singing Nun