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Singing nun Janet Mead, whose ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ became a rock hit, dies at 84

J-P Mauro - published on 01/27/22

The groovy, prayerful song was an instant hit and made her the first Australian to ever sell one million records in the United States.

The world has lost a Catholic rock legend. Sister Janet Mead, whose disco-rock rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” skyrocketed her to fame, has passed away. The Sister of Mercy reportedly succumbed to cancer, at 83, on January 26, 2022.

Although it’s been nearly 50 years since her breakout hit, Sister Mead remains one of the most successful Catholic musicians of all time. She was just the second woman to have a Top 10 single while serving as a nun. The only act that surpasses her in this category was Sister Luc-Gabrielle, or “The Singing Nun”, who penned the 1963 hit “Dominique.”

Catholic Rock

According to her biography, Sister Mead was a lifelong musician who got her start at 17, when she formed a rock band to play church services. These rock-and-roll proclivities would only expand once she joined the Sisters of Mercy and began to teach. As a teacher she began exploring the role Rock music could play in engaging her students, which led her to write a series of “Rock Masses.” 

Mead began to produce professional grade recordings of her tunes in 1973 and was quickly approached by Festival Records to record an LP. The A side was a cover of Donovan’s “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” but the B side was “The Lord’s Prayer.” To say the song was well received is quite the understatement. 

“The Lord’s Prayer” was an instant hit and made Sr. Mead the first Australian to ever sell one million records in the United States. The tune made it all the way to #3 on Australia’s singles chart and #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, by 1974. It even earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Inspirational Performance, but was beaten out by Elvis’ “How Great Thou Art.” Following the Sisters of Mercy’s vow of poverty, Mead donated all her royalties to charity.

Humility and Withdrawal

After the monumental success of her first single, Sr. Mead recorded a full album, With You I Am, which earned a respectable spot at 19 on the charts. While not nearly as well-known as her single, this album’s success allowed her to record one of the Rock Masses that she had written for her students. 

For all her success in the industry, however, Mead never enjoyed being in the public eye. She would look back on her budding Pop career as a “horrible time” of her life, that caused her to briefly question her faith. By the time she finished recording her third album she had become disillusioned with the whole affair and withdrew from public life. The album would go unreleased until 1999, for the 25th anniversary of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

While she abandoned her career as a performer, Mead continued to teach music to Catholic students all her life. With less time in the studio, she was also able to devote more time to the poor and homeless communities. For this outstanding work, Sr. Mead was honored as South Australian of the Year, in 2004. In that same year, she was awarded the Yamaha Golden Gospel award for her contributions to Australian music. 

On January 26, The Guardian reported that The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide confirmed that Sister Janet had passed away of an unnamed form of cancer. Her music and life story remain as inspirations to all the faithful and a testament to the value of religious communities the world over. 

Hear more of Sr. Janet Mead’s music on Spotify.

Tags:
Catholic MusicNunsPrayer
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