A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Did the "singing nun" commit suicide with her lesbian lover?

June 24, 1988

Dear Cecil:

A friend and I were discussing the fate of the "singing nun," popular for a time in the 60s when we were kids. We agreed she left the convent, entered into a lesbian affair and, in a state of despondency over money matters, committed suicide. But neither of us can remember exactly why. Could you possibly help?

Cecil replies:

Let's not make this any more lurid than it already is, Hethryn (or whatever your name is — I swear, what this country really needs is a good course in handwriting). It's true that the "singing nun," also known as Janine (spellings vary) Deckers, committed suicide in Belgium in 1985 along with her companion of ten years, Annie Pecher. However, popular belief on this score notwithstanding, Cecil does not know if the two were lovers, and frankly does not feel it is any of his business. Or, if you don't mind my saying so, of yours.

The two women were in despair because the center for autistic children they had founded had gone under for lack of funds. The Belgian government was also dunning Deckers for back taxes of between $47,000 and $63,000, although she said she had given all her music earnings to her convent. Deckers, who had become a Dominican nun in 1959, recorded "Dominique" as a tribute to the founder of her order. In 1963 it made number one in the U.S., selling 1.5 million copies. Deckers left the convent in 1967 before taking final vows, partly to pursue a recording career, but never repeated her earlier success. After her death at 51 or 52 (the two women washed down massive doses of barbiturates with alcohol), she did receive the highest honor our society can bestow — a full page obit in People magazine.

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