Neil Young – Cortez the Killer

On November 10, 1975, the Neil Young single Cortez the Killer was released. The song is at the top of several of Neil Young's best songs and albums lists.

About the song Cortez the Killer

Rolling Stone Australia: Neil Young music list / song ranking (2021)

Rolling Stone Australia music magazine published a list of Neil Young's top 100 songs in 2021. The song Cortez the Killer made it to the top of the list, up to 4th place.
As to why the song ends so abruptly, Billy Talbot, Crazy Horse's bassist, explained it this way:
"(...) “We didn’t know and just kept playing and playing,” says Talbot. “We lost a verse, but Neil said it was a good verse to lose.” That explains why the song ends so abruptly. (...)"[1]

MusicRadar: Neil Young music list / song ranking (2022)

In 2022, Music Maker magazine MusicRadar published a list of the 5 Neil Young songs that guitarists need to hear. In this list, Cortez the Killer is listed as the fifth song.
"A signature Neil Young song, recorded with Crazy Horse, that doesn’t sound like it could have come from any other artist. (...) "[2]

The Guardian: Neil Young album ranking (2020)

In 2020, The Guardian compiled a ranking of all Neil Young albums released to date. The album Zuma, on which Cortez the Killer is the 8th track, got 6th place in this list:
"(...) Zuma reunited Young with a revitalised Crazy Horse, sparking Barstool Blues’s glorious evocation of a drunk mind meandering and the brooding, majestic historical epic Cortez the Killer."[3]

Far Out Magazine article (2021)

The British music magazine Far Out describes in an article from 2021 how Neil Young created the song. About the beginning of the track, the article states:
"The lyrics come in at the 3:23 mark, and the first segment described Cortés and his “galleons and guns”, reaching the shores of the New World."[4]

FAQ about the song Cortez the Killer by Neil Young

Who is associated with the song?

  • Neil Young (singer-songwriter)
  • Crazy Horse (American rock band)

Who covered the song?

Some handpicked musicians, singer and bands, who covered the song:

  • The Church (Australian rock band): 1999, studio album
  • Dave Matthews Band (American rock band): 2003, live concert
  • Marissa Nadler (American musician): 2007, track is included on the digital bonus EP for her US released album Songs III: Bird on the Water
  • Kurt Vile (American singer-songwriter): 2015, live concert


[1] Rolling Stone Australia. (2021, December 16). “Cortez the Killer” - Rolling Stone Australia.

[2] Robson, P. (2022, February 2). 5 songs guitarists need to hear by… Neil Young. MusicRadar.

[3] Petridis, A. (2020, November 5). Neil Young – every album ranked! The Guardian.

[4] Starkey, A. (2021, December 20). The story of how Neil Young created “Cortez the Killer.” Far Out Magazine.

WordPress Cookie Notice by Real Cookie Banner