Cortez the Killer

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"Cortez the Killer" is a song by Neil Young from his 1975 album, Zuma. It was recorded with Young's band Crazy Horse and ranked #39 on Guitar World's 100 Greatest Guitar Solos and #321 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.Young has stated in concert that he wrote the song while studying history in high school in Winnipeg. According to Young's notes for the album Decade, the song was banned in Spain under Francisco Franco.Lyrics and interpretationThe song is about Hernán Cortés (Cortés' name is misspelled in the song title), a conquistador who conquered Mexico for Spain in the 16th century. "Cortez the Killer" also makes reference to the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II and other events that occurred in the Spanish conquest of the New World. Instead of describing the battles of Cortés with the Aztecs, the lyric in the last verse suddenly jumps from third person narrative to first person, with a reference to an unnamed woman: "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." The lyric suggests a lost love affair and brings a personal aspect to what was otherwise an historical narrative, suggesting a connection between broken relationships and the imperial invasion by someone else. Young had recently gone through his breakup with Carrie Snodgress around this time.

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