'Sister Act' turns 25: A breakdown of the film's iconic soundtrack

We all remember singing with Sister Mary Clarence.

ByABC News
May 29, 2017, 5:10 AM

— -- It's been 25 years since we watched nightclub lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier turn into Sister Mary Clarence to avoid getting killed in "Sister Act."

Whoopi Goldberg's character was put in protective custody, inside a rundown San Francisco convent, to avoid her gangster boyfriend's goons after she witnessed a killing. There, she became the director of the church's choir, taking the nuns from meek singers to a chorus so beautiful they sang for the Pope.

"Sister Act" burst into theaters at a time when movie soundtracks were stand alone bodies of work. And this 1992 film was no different.

It set the tone for other movie soundtracks that we'd also memorize later that year, including "The Bodyguard," "Aladdin," and "Boomerang."

Along with taking 1960s hits and putting religious affects on them, composer Marc Shaiman provided instrumentation to keep the movie going.

Here are some of our favorite songs and their origins from "Sister Act," which also starred "Downton Abbey" star Maggie Smith, "Veep's" Kathy Najimy and the late Bill Nunn.

"The Lounge Medley"

We meet Van Cartier in a seedy Reno lounge, singing with her group, The Ronelles. It's a clear nod to our 60s singing trios, including The Ronettes, The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. In fact, the onscreen group sang The Vandellas' 1963 hit "Heat Wave" to begin their medley.

The song was written by three men who defined the Motown sound -- Lamont Dozier along with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. Next up in the medley was Mary Wells' 1964 hit song "My Guy" along with Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him." We'll talk more about these songs later.

"Rescue Me"

When "Sister Act" played Fontella Bass' 1965 R&B song, "Rescue Me," it was in its original form. How could you touch a song that's been remade so many times already?

Diana Ross tried it in 1984 and Linda Ronstadt did it in 1972. Still, for Bass the song was the biggest hit of her career.

"Rescue Me" was created during an August jam session inside Chicago's Chess Studios with Bass, Carl Smith, Raynard Miner and Phil Wright.

Other names you might recognize contributed to the song, including Minnie Riperton (actress Maya Rudolph's late mother), who sang background vocals. Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White and Louis Satterfield played on the drums and bass respectively.

"Hail Holy Queen"

This adaptation of a Catholic hymn is actually known as the "Salve Regina," which has great significance to the church. It's usually sung at the end of a priest's funeral, during mass around Easter and it's the final prayer of the Rosary, a type of prayer. Still, the song actually dates back to the Middle Ages.

In "Sister Act," Sister Mary Clarence and her singing nuns remix the song for Sunday service at St. Katherine's Parish, adding a percussion-heavy breakdown that didn't go over well with Smith's Mother Superior. Still, it did attract more people to the church.

"Roll With Me Henry"

Remember that scene when Sister Mary Clarence just couldn't bear to stay in the convent any longer and walked across the street to the local bar? Of course, her new sisters followed right along with her unbeknownst to her.

But this is when Goldberg's character selects to play Etta James' 1955 pop song, "Roll with Me, Henry," from the jukebox.

The dance song was also known as "Dance with Me, Henry" or "The Wallflower." Although the song was considered too raunchy to play on pop radio originally, it eventually went on to win the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2008.

"Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)"

When Dee Dee Sharp's "Gravy" played during "Sister Act" it was in its original masterpiece. The Philadelphia singer's number one hit was a follow up to her 1962 hit, "Mashed Potatoes Time." It looks like Sharp had a theme for her songs that insinuated something deemed to risque to sing about on the radio.

"My God"

Mary Wells' 1964 hit "My Guy," written and produced by Smokey Robinson, was remixed for the singing nuns in "Sister Act." The original song, however, was recorded at Hitsville U.S.A. in Detroit, Michigan, by Motown's first female star.

"Just a Touch of Love"

This 1991 song by C+C Music Factory, an EDM group formed in New York City, played in its original form during "Sister Act."

It was an important scene as Sister Mary Clarence finally found her purpose at the convent -- she decided to help the sisters turn it around.

While "Just a Touch of Love" played in the background, the sisters clean off the graffiti that found itself on the convent walls and turn their church into a welcoming place of worship.

"I Will Follow Him"

This is probably one of the most important remixes on the "Sister Act" soundtrack. That's because this is when Sister Mary Clarence and her singing nuns sing for the Pope. The nuns turned Peggy March's 1963 hit "I Will Follow Him" into a song suitable for the Holy Father.

March's hit was actually a remake of a 1961 instrumental titled "Chariot" by Franck Pourcel. Still, it became a household hit after a then 15-year-old March recorded it for herself, making her the youngest female artist to have a U.S. chart-topping single.


"Sister Act" turned the Isley Brothers' classic song into their own for the soundtrack.

And they wouldn't be the first to cover the classic dance track. "Shout" has been covered by everyone from The Beatles, Green Day, Bon Jovi and even Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Originally, however, it was released in 1959. "Shout," written by the brothers themselves -- O'Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ron Isley -- was actually a response to Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops."

"If My Sister's In Trouble"

This 1992 song by Lady Soul was likely the only song uniquely created for the "Sister Act" soundtrack. The black and white music video featured the film's actors, including Goldberg, and its lyrics really spoke to the message of the film.

"If my sister’s in trouble/I will always help her out," the song croons. "If my sister’s in trouble/I will turn the world around/I will fight for her right/No matter where the trouble seems to lie."