Banned Songs – Cortez the Killer

I’ve been a little obsessed with this song lately.

I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled across it but I suspect it was thanks to the AWESOME Mysterious Cities of Gold – but in any event, I’m really enjoying the song. I was already a Neil Young fan but for some reason I’d never heard Cortez the Killer or the Zuma album, which surprised me. A lot. And so perhaps in honour of that surprise I thought I’d share the song plus a bit of trivia about it (thanks, Wiki!):

  • Power failure in the studio means Young lost the last verse
  • Banned in Spain upon release (since lifted)
  • Ranked #39 on Guitar World‘s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos



Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this song is that it seems to upset some historians. Now, I understand that representation is a great mediator of reality but I doubt Young ever claimed to be presenting a historical document.

It’s obviously romanticising history for the purpose of song – and listeners need to learn how to navigate all forms of media. Obviously, the Aztecs did indeed know war and hate and yeah, Cortez did murder a lot of people – but interestingly, Young seems to humanise the coloniser in the second last verse:

And I know she’s living there
And she loves me to this day.
I still can’t remember when
or how I lost my way

Like whoever wrote the wikipedia article on the song, I too wonder, does Young sing from Cortez’s point of view there? Is Cortez pining for La Malinche? (And what a fascinating figure she is too.)

Next week – another banned song 🙂