Neil Young - Cortez the Killer - 1975

Neil Young - Cortez the Killer - 1975

Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" is a song from his 1975 album "Zuma". It's a lengthy, guitar-heavy piece that reflects on the story of Hernán Cortés, a Spanish Conquistador, and his conquest of the Aztec Empire. The song is renowned for its powerful lyrics and distinctive guitar work, characteristic of Young's style. Despite its historical theme, the song also touches on themes of love and loss, creating a poignant and layered piece of music.

  1. Learn more about Neil Young and his impact on music.
  2. Explore the history of Hernán Cortés and the Aztec Empire.
  3. Understand the 1970s music scene and its influence on rock music.
  4. Discover the role of guitar in rock music.

Interactive Tasks

Quiz: Questions on the song

What year was "Cortez the Killer" released? (1975) (!1969) (!1980) (!1972)

Which album features "Cortez the Killer"? (Zuma) (!Harvest) (!After the Gold Rush) (!Rust Never Sleeps)

What is the main theme of "Cortez the Killer"? (Hernán Cortés and the Aztec Empire) (!The California Gold Rush) (!The American Civil War) (!The French Revolution)

How is the song "Cortez the Killer" musically characterized? (Long guitar solos and a slow tempo) (!Fast-paced with heavy drumming) (!Acoustic and folk-inspired) (!Electronic and experimental)

What notable aspect is missing in the song's lyrics? (A direct mention of Cortez by name) (!References to historical events) (!Mentions of love and loss) (!Imagery of battles and conquest)

Quiz: Questions on the Performer

Which country is Neil Young originally from? (Canada) (!United States) (!United Kingdom) (!Australia)

In addition to his solo career, which band was Neil Young a part of? (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) (!The Beatles) (!Led Zeppelin) (!Pink Floyd)

Which instrument is Neil Young best known for playing? (Guitar) (!Drums) (!Piano) (!Bass)

What is a distinctive feature of Neil Young's music style? (Emotional depth and distinctive guitar work) (!Disco and dance rhythms) (!Heavy metal influences) (!Electronic music elements)

Which other famous song is Neil Young known for? ("Heart of Gold") (!"Hotel California") (!"Stairway to Heaven") (!"Bohemian Rhapsody")

Quiz: Questions on the lyrics

What does the song imply about Cortez's impact on the Aztec civilization? (Destruction and conquest) (!Peaceful trade) (!Cultural exchange) (!Scientific advancement)

Which element is romantically idealized in the song's lyrics? (The Aztec civilization) (!The Spanish Empire) (!The era of exploration) (!Modern society)

What contrast is presented in the song's lyrics? (Beauty and brutality) (!Past and future) (!Land and sea) (!Rich and poor)

How does the song end, lyrically? (With a reflection on love and loss) (!With a celebration of victory) (!With a call to action) (!With a tribute to heroes)

What literary technique is prominently used in "Cortez the Killer"? (Imagery and metaphor) (!Satire) (!Allegory) (!Hyperbole)


Neil Young Canadian Musician
Zuma 1975 Album
Guitar Solos Signature Feature
Hernán Cortés Spanish Conquistador
Aztec Empire Subject of the Song

Open Tasks


  1. Research the Aztecs: Find out more about the Aztec civilization and create a short presentation.
  2. Explore 1970s Rock Music: Listen to other 1970s rock songs and compare them to "Cortez the Killer".
  3. Guitar Techniques: Learn the basics of playing guitar and try to replicate a simple melody.


  1. Analyze the Lyrics: Write an essay analyzing the lyrics of "Cortez the Killer".
  2. Neil Young's Discography: Explore Neil Young's other works and identify common themes and styles.
  3. Create a Podcast: Produce a podcast discussing the impact of 1970s music on modern rock.


  1. Compose Music: Write and record a song inspired by "Cortez the Killer".
  2. Historical Analysis: Research Hernán Cortés and the Aztec Empire and compare historical facts with the song's portrayal.
  3. Music Video Creation: Create a music video that captures the themes of "Cortez the Killer".

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Oral Exam

  1. Discuss how "Cortez the Killer" reflects the themes of imperialism and cultural destruction.
  2. Analyze how Neil Young uses music to convey emotion and narrative in the song.
  3. Compare and contrast the portrayal of historical events in music with actual historical accounts.
  4. Explain the role of rock music in the 1970s and its impact on society.
  5. Explore how artists like Neil Young influence modern musicians and songwriters.

OERs on the Topic


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