Worthwile information copied from the CBC that follows my previous blog post: http://music.cbc.ca/#/blogs/2012/5/Rear-View-Mirror-Neil-Youngs-16th-Century-history-lesson-in-Cortez-The-Killer
“Every week in Rear-View Mirror, Rich Terfry looks back at a great song from the good ol’ days.
In 1975, Neil Young wrote a song based on a story he remembered from a history class at his high school in Winnipeg. The song was then banned in Spain for it’s dark depiction of Spanish colonization of the new world.
The song is about a conquistador named Hernan Cortez who conquered Mexico for Spain by defeating the Aztecs. Accounts of Cortez’ life and exploits are few. Because of this, there tends to be sharp division in descriptions of Cortez as either the honorable cavalier or the ruthless conqueror. In his song “Cortez The Killer” — as you might guess from the title — Neil Young paints a picture of a figure accused of heinous violence against the Aztecs.
The third verse of the song refers to a relationship with a woman. It’s thought that this is likely a reference to a woman known as La Malinche. Accounts of her life and her role in Cortez conquests vary as well. What is known is that she was a native slave given to Cortez, who became his mistress and bore him a son. She has been portrayed in some accounts as a traitor who aided Cortez and the Spanish in their campaign to conquer her people and native land.
This song has often worked as a go-to for Young when he’s asked in interviews as to whether his songs are autobiographical in nature. The notoriously private Young once responded to this question by saying, “What the f*** am I doing writing about Aztecs in ‘Cortez the Killer’ like I was there, wandering around?” “
Up to here is the CBC quote. I saw that Diego Rivera portrayed an Aztec enslaved woman who is carrying a blue eyed baby, standing behind the Spanish trader doing business (in one of Rivera’s murals in the Palacio National in Mexico City), obviously “belonging” to moneybags. I am not sure who he would be in this mural.
Lyrics courtesy: AzetLyrics.com
“Cortez The Killer”
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.On the shore lay Montezuma
With his coca leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds.And his subjects
gathered ’round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see.And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood
straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on.Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.They carried them
to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up
with their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.
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.
He came dancing across the water
What a killer.