March 29, 1985 – The Singing Nun or Soeur Sourire in her native Belgium, was born Jeanine Deckers on October 17, 1933.
When entering the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium she became Sister Luc Gabriel. She became internationally famous in 1963 as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song “Dominique”.
In the English speaking world, she is mostly referred to as “The Singing Nun”. She gave concerts and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
Todate, “Dominique” is the only Belgian number one hit single in the United States. In 1966, a movie called The Singing Nun was made about her, starring Debbie Reynolds in the title role. Deckers rejected the film as “fiction”. Sally Field spoofed the role starting the following year as the title character in the television series The Flying Nun.
In 1967, she left her monastery to continue her musical career under the name Luc Dominique and released an album called “I Am Not a Star in Heaven”. Her repertoire consisted of religious songs and songs for children. Most of her earnings went to the convent.
When her musical career came to an end, she opened a school for autistic children in Belgium. In the late 1970s the Belgian government claimed that she owed around US$63,000 in back taxes. Jeanine countered that the money was given to the convent and therefore exempt from taxes. Lacking any receipts to prove her donations to the convent and her religious order, she ran into serious financial problems.
Citing their financial difficulties in a note, she and her companion of ten years, Anna Pécher, both committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on March 29, 1985. She was 51.
In a great irony, the very day of her suicide but sadly unknown to her, the Belgian association that collects royalties for songwriters (SABAM) awarded her approximately $300,000 in royalties – more than enough to pay off her $63,000 debt and provide for her!!!