Neil Young: Cortez the Killer


As you can see, I decided to add a little background color to my blog.  Fiddling around with my blog appearance made me think about my blog title, which in turn caused me to think about Neil Young.  Why, you ask?  Well, because of Keats’ stout Cortez and his men, staring with a wild surmise at the Pacific Ocean, silent upon a peak in Darien. You can read all about that here.  And naturally, the next step would be to think about Neil’s “Cortez the Killer”, which is one of his very best songs, in my humble opinion.

The amazing Mr. Young wrote this song while still in high school, and it was inspired by what he was learning in history class.  Can you believe it?  There I was in high school, playing the flute halfheartedly in the marching band, forgetting to practice my piano lessons, mouthing the words in choir, watching “The Kids Are All Right” over and over, and working on my record and eight-track collection.  At the same age, Neil Young was writing “Cortez the Killer”!  Genius, I tell you!  And that’s what separates the musical wheat (Neil) from the musical chaff (me).

According to my usual lightning-fast skim & scan of Wikipedia, this song ranks #39 on Guitar World’s Greatest Guitar Solos, and #321 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. For what it’s worth*, it ranks much higher than that on the Marie list.  The song obviously is about Cortez, who conquered Mexico for Spain, and the Aztec people with whom he battled.  It’s so dreamy and mesmerizing that you can get lost in it.  Luckily, it’s over seven minutes long, so you don’t have to hit repeat that often to keep the dream going.  Good heavens, it’s just so, so beautiful; and written by a kid (albeit a musical giant) in high school.  I can’t get over it.

Cortez, Cortez, what a killer…

*Did you catch my hint? Bonus points for you! Here’s “For What it’s Worth”, by the phenomenal Buffalo Springfield. You’ll get a great look at our hero Neil in some magnificent sideburns. Why don’t we ever see sideburns like this anymore? I miss them. Oh, and I’m really digging Stephen Stills in that awesome hat.

I’d also like to do something a little different this time and feature my favorite Youtube musician, Larry L. Larry is amazing – he does outstanding covers of “our music”. When I start looking for a piece on Youtube, I always check to see if Larry’s done a cover of it as well.  I’ll be including his covers occasionally in my posts.  It’s great to see musicians keeping the music alive in their homes and sharing it through Youtube – I want to support that. I’m so lucky to have my own guitar man at home.  A musical home is a true blessing and I’m grateful for it. Enjoy Neil’s classic, “Down By The River”, performed by the remarkable Larry L.

As you may know, I often recommend books written by or about the musicians I feature, and this time’s no exception.  I highly recommend Neil’s autobiography, “Waging Heavy Peace”.

young bio

Comments?  Crazy about Neil?  Want to talk about Larry L.?

Please Share!



Filed under Music, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Neil Young: Cortez the Killer

  1. Isn’t it remarkable how many moods Neil Young can create with what is really quite a limited palette? And when Crazy Horse add their restless rolling energy it can be really exciting. No doubt you’ll be shocked to hear that I rate the ‘Live Rust’ version of Cortez. In fact it’s playing now, perfect for a leaden-skyed Melbourne Monday morning. Cheers.

  2. Agreed – love Mr. Young and Crazy Horse. And Live Rust is another great live album I forgot about, ha ha! 🙂

  3. Nice tie-in with your blog there. Enjoyed all the tracks and agree Mr Larry sounds very good.

  4. Pingback: SING A SONG IN A SHAKEY VOICE | vinyl connection

  5. The original on Zuma is great, but the version on Weld is awe-inspiring!

  6. Yep, I agree with you there…thanks for your comment, Leon! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Neil, Georgia, and The Study Board Biz | My Wild Surmise

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