This is one of my favourite gospel songs from Dylan written in 1979 and released on 1980 Gospel record Saved. Dylan wrote so many great songs in ’79 including Gotta Serve Somebody, I Believe in You and Precious Angel, but unlike today’s featured song these aforementioned songs were released on the Slow Train Coming record which was his first album following his conversion to Christianity. Saved was the second album of Dylan’s “Christian trilogy”, but was not well received. The gospel arrangements and lyrics extol the importance of a strong personal faith.
Covenant woman got a contract with the Lord
Way up yonder, great will be her reward
Covenant woman, shining like a morning star
I know I can trust you to stay where you are
And I just got to tell you
I do intend
To stay closer than any friend
I just got to thank you
For making your prayers known
Unto heaven for me
And to you, always, so grateful
I will forever be
In my estimation, Covenant Woman is the stand-out track from Saved. It is an unconventional beautiful song, sang with so much heart and conviction. Untold Dylan described the song as follows:
The covenant is a bond, a promise, a link of overwhelming significance. Put into the context of this song a covenant between a man and a woman is a bond between a couple who not only love each other but also share a belief that there is a God, and the Bible represents His teachings. So it is a triangle – the man, the woman, the teaching of Christ.
“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me”. (Jeremiah 32.40).
The original studio version is not available on You Tube so I linked below a live version which Dylan sings with great care and nuance. Covenant Woman was performed 87 times until November 1980. When I hear the studio version the organ and piano parts feel so reminiscent of Elton John’s playing. Expanding on Untold Dylan’s comments above, Covenant Woman demonstrates Dylan’s belief (based on Scripture) that the love between a man and woman is a central aspect of the covenant God has made with mankind. Not only is the relationship a necessary part of establishing God’s kingdom, but it is also a relationship that draws parallels with God’s relationship with humanity.
The Church, after all, is called the “bride” of Christ. Dylan draws on this parallel in many of his later songs (especially in the songs on Time Out of Mind) to create fascinating double meanings in his songs. This song is simpler, however. It is an honest expression of desire to share a lifetime of God’s salvation with a woman “closer than any friend”.