On this day in music history: December 7, 1963…

On this day in music history: December 7, 1963 – “Dominique” by The Singing Nun hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Sœur Sourire (aka Jeanne Deckers), it is the only hit for the Dominican nun from the Fischermont Monastery in Belgium. Written and sung by Sister Luc-Gabrielle (born Jeanne-Paule-Marie Deckers), the song (and album) are recorded after nuns from the monastery approach executives from Philips Records about making a private recording to be given away as gifts to girls studying at the convent. The label likes the finished recordings so well that they are commercially released. The French language song about St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican religious order becomes a surprise hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #64 on November 9, 1963, it rockets to the top of the chart four weeks later. Both the single and album “The Singing Nun” (#1 for 10 weeks) sells several million copies around the world, with The Singing Nun becoming the first artist in the history of the Billboard charts to have their album and single claim the top spot on both charts simultaneously. Deckers performs the song on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 5, 1964, but does not have any other hits after the huge success of “Dominique”. A film about the nuns’ path to pop music success starring actress Debbie Reynolds is released in 1966. Deckers leaves the monastery later in 1967 to become a secular missionary, continuing her music career, and opening a school for autistic children with her childhood friend and life partner Annie Pécher. The success of “Dominique” proves to be a double edged sword when the Belgian government claims the Deckers owes a large amount in back taxes from the royalties of the single and album. Having given all of her royalties to the convent, she claims she is not liable for the large tax bill. The convent refuse to take any responsibility for the debt since Deckers no longer belonged to it, and claimed to not have the funds. They also prevent her from performing under the name Sœur Sourire as the Dominican sisters claim rights to the name. Dogged by financial problems and depressed at the failure to restart her music career, Deckers and Pécher both commit suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on March 29, 1985. In later years, “Dominique” is featured in various films including “Mermaids”, and television programs including “Mad Men”, “The Simpsons”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “American Horror Story: Asylum”.