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July 27, 2006

The Singing Nun

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The things you run across when you research a topic! Nuns, for instance.


Remember the Singing Nun, aka Soeur Sourire? "Dominique-nique-nique," etc? The song was not only the #1 pop hit in 1964, it prevented "Louie Louie" from getting to #1. It was also the only Belgian pop tune ever to make it to #1 in America. In 1965, Debbie Reynolds portrayed Soeur Sourire in a popular movie, "The Singing Nun." Swingin' Chicks calls Soeur Sourire "the unlikeliest pop star ever."

I can't say that I'd given Soeur Sourire a thought in decades. But now I know her life story: Art school, then the convent. Urged on by fellow nuns, she recorded "Dominique." She left the convent and shacked up with a girlfriend -- there's apparently some controversy about whether the two women were sexually involved. Her record contract was canceled after the Singing Nun novelty-thing wore off. She started and ran a school for autistic kids. And -- when the Belgian government pursued her for taxes they said were owed on her Singing Nun earnings -- she and her girlfriend committed suicide.

Here's the bio. Here's Wikipedia. Here's a site devoted to her. Here's an interview with a fan and author. Here's a YouTube video of Soeur Sourire in action. Here she sings her big hit to a disco beat.



posted by Michael at July 27, 2006


Although I'm too young to remember when "Dominique" was a hit, the melody has been rattling around my brain unmatched with a name for some time now. Where I picked up the melody I have no idea, but this lays another mystery to rest.

Posted by: AlanWW on July 27, 2006 3:36 PM

This song was played so much at my house when I was growing up I suspect it's part of my DNA, just like Herb Alpert and the TJB is.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on July 27, 2006 5:34 PM

This is all PC and shit, but the lyrics of the song were apparently about the massacre of the Albigensians, from the anti-Albigensian point of view.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 27, 2006 6:21 PM

I guess this settles any doubts: you can find *anything* on You Tube!

Posted by: Peter on July 27, 2006 7:33 PM

Question to John Emerson: are you saying that the lyrics to "Dominique" were about the anti-Albigensian crusade? I was in Catholic high school when the Singing Nun was at the height of her popularity, and we sang "Dominique" in French class. Both French and English lyrics were provided and I don't recall any reference to the Albigensians or the massacre. It's been forty years or so and my mmeory was perfect, but that's one of those bizarro things I'd be likely to remember. Are you sure about this?

Posted by: Bilwick on July 28, 2006 9:27 AM

The song is about St. Dominic (born Guzman), the founder of the Dominican Order, who played a major role in the Albigensian crusade, which was quite brutal. The song doesn't talk mostly about the crusade, but mentions it:

"In the age when John Lackland
Was the king of England,
Our father, Dominique,
Fought the Albigensians."

Posted by: John Emerson on July 28, 2006 10:15 AM

Thanks for the translation, Mr. Emerson. In my previous post I meant to type "my memory isn't perfect," as you demonstrate. I guess at the time I thought the Albigensians were invaders like the Huns or the Vikings, or if they explained to us that the Albigensians were heretics, we probably assumed St. Dominic's "fight" was an intellectual one.
I've been thinking, in light of what we now now about the real Singing Nun, that it's too bad Hollywood didn't do a SINGING NUN II, with some hot nun-on-nun action between Debbie Reynolds and her "special friend," played by Connie Stevens.

Posted by: Bilwick on July 28, 2006 1:03 PM

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