According to Judy Scott
, author of Leonard, Marianne, and Me
, "Master Song" could be about John Starr Cooke, a spiritual guru who was friends with Cohen's girlfriend, Marianne Ihlen, subject of another song on the album, "So Long, Marianne
." When Cohen and Ihlen were living together in Montreal, they had a falling out, and Ihlen left for Mexico, where she stayed with Cooke. Cohen called, asking her to return, and she did.
Matters of love drove much of Cohen's works, and it is especially acute here. In Scott's interpretation, Cooke is the "master," a title often bestowed on mystics and guru types.