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Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Sister Smile: Singer. Rebel. Feminist. Lover. Nun"

Josephus Dolce: I accidentally stumbled onto a great dvd this afternoon [22/06/2013]. The story of 'Soeur Sourire' - the Singing Nun. Some of you my age will remember her world wide number one hit song 'Dominique'. The title of this dvd is 'Sister Smile', the way the American media referred to her. Something compelled me to go down to Dixons second-hand dvd shop today and there it was. I have a long history with Jeannine Deckers, the 'Singing Nun'. 'Dominique' was one of the first songs that went in deep and turned a switch when I was a teenager, an unlikely world hit, sung in French, by a Dominican nun! Go figure. I was a straight A student in French in years 11 and 12 so maybe that had something to do with it but I think it was her tender voice that really stung me. In any case, some years ago, I discovered the incredible story around this woman. Art student as a young girl, off to the convent as a teenager, sudden out-of-the-blue pop star, left the convent, moved in with a woman companion, rebelled against the Church with 'The Golden Pill' - a song glorifying birth control as coming from God for the liberation of women - finally hunted down by the tax department, and in despair, and joy it seems from this film, she and her partner Annie Pescher, committed suicide together in a loving pact.

I was in negotiations to help with an English translation of her life story a decade ago with a Belgian publisher and writer but the wheels fell off of that one. A few years ago, I wrote a new set of lyrics to her massive number one hit 'Dominique' and this was published as a poem in 'Etchings 11- Three Chords and the Truth' last month. But other than that, I forgot about it. Now I discover this amazing movie and it all comes back. Here is the cover of the dvd. I don't know if you can find it. It was an accident that I did. Also, here are the lyrics to my biographic-variation of her beautiful song, sung to the original melody. 

(to the tune of Dominique)

" Dominique, nique, nique
s'en allait tout simplement
routier pauvre et chantant
en tous chemins, en tous lieux
elle ne parle que du bon Dieu,
elle ne parle que du bon Dieu." 

Jeanine Deckers

Dominique, nique, nique . . . 
sang that voice we knew so well 
her story here I'll tell 
such a sweet and sad refrain 
Jeanine Deckers was her name,
Jeanine Deckers was her name.

Born in Belgium in the fifties 
with a manner shy and hushed 
as a young girl at an art school 
held the watercolour brush.

She renounced all possessions 
to the convent she did go 
until the world saw Soeur Sourire 
on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Then in nineteen sixty-three 
Dominique was number one 
to her Order she donated 
all the profits from the song.

She won a Grammy award 
for the year's best gospel song 
she was called a one-hit wonder 
she was called The Singing Nun.

Sudden fame took her by the hand 
led her into the deep 
so uncomfortable performing 
tranquillizers helped her sleep.

Soon she left her convent tunic 
for modern clothes again 
and met dear Annie Pescher 
who became her lifelong friend.

She criticized the Church 
in a protest voice so bold 
when she wrote The Golden Pill 
praising God for birth control.

Jeanine built a school in Belgium 
where autistic kids could go 
but the tax department closed it 
for a claim they said she owed.

Then in nineteen eighty-five 
times were destitute and black 
Jeanine Decker and Annie Pescher 
made their suicidal pact.

Dominique, nique, nique . . . 
sang that voice we knew so well 
her story here I'll tell 
such a sweet and sad refrain 
Jeanine Deckers was her name,
Jeanine Deckers was her name.

- Josephus Dolce, 2013

1 comment:

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Wow, a great story about a great story! When I did some research on Decker a while ago I was amazed at what a revolutionary she turned out to be. She died like a rock star.