He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In the 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
And they carried them to the flatland
But 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
Cortez, Cortez
What a killer...

Lyrics submitted by H-bomb, edited by smallwonderrobot

Cortez The Killer song meanings
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  • +3
    General Commenti feel as if neil young is likening himself to this image of cortez, with montezuma and the aztecs as a lost love. in his image, the people are beautiful, peaceful, spirited and intense. cortez comes and takes that away forever. it seems like he's feeling guilt for devastating a woman's life and hopes (in love)...

    "i know she's living there,
    and she loves me to this day.
    i can't remember when
    or how i lost my way.
    he came dancing across the water.
    cortez, cortez.
    what a killer."

    young often refers to his "darker side". perhaps it reigned as cortez.
    eremitic3on March 21, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Commentwhat a shit song. everyone knows Cortes used sloops, not galleons. Come on get serious, Neil.

    (I'm kidding it absolutely rules.)
    Vannarothon May 16, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMy Top 10 Neil Young Songs-

    10. Barstool Blues
    9. Motion Pictures
    8. Bandit
    7. Pocahantas
    6. Albequerque
    5. Ambulance Blues
    4. Danger Bird (obviously)
    3. On The Beach
    2. Cowgirl In The Sand


    Although that list changes from day to day, Cortez never leaves the top spot. When you first hear the song you don't even need to know the title or the subject matter. The guitar and bass and drums just mesh perfectly to create a sense of wandering out at sea then his pitch perfect vocals ... arrgh its just to good! Neil simply doesnt get the respect he deserves as a writer or musician or an influence on the generations that followed him and the best part is hes still going strong today. It just doesnt get better than Neil and Crazy Horse.
    Long may they run!
    DangerBirdon June 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenta beautiful and somber piece of musical history
    pezking21on September 22, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBuilt to Spill does an absolutely spectaculr cover of this song on their Live album.

    /shameless plug
    PapaBobDoleon October 17, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBuilt to Spill DOES do an absolutely amazing ocver of this song and I absolutely agree with you. Even the fact that it's over 20 minutes long doesn't detract from it's greatness. What can I say? The lyrics to this song are powerful and the music that accompanies it is equally powerful. This song is nothing short of amazing.
    ars musicaon April 25, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentits a wonderful song, neil or bts, whoever is doing it. i dont know about the church. neil is a music god
    Arcadiaon October 10, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about anarchy. Cortez destroyed it.

    "But they built up
    with their bare hands
    What we still can't do today."

    We still can't accomplish a just society, even today.
    EZ3on April 29, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe first neil young albumn i bought was neil young & crazy hourse weld. the very first song i heard was cortez the killer. it absoluty blew my mind. the passion through the lyrics and guitar are just perfect. this song almost brought me too tears. it is my favourite song of all time and i feel it will stay that way for ever.
    juliano69on May 12, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with the above poster. Its has beautiful imaginary contained in its few passages, regardless of the historical accuracy.

    This song is a historical twist on his own life, a girl whos utopia he disturbed with his human ways. Cortez is a tragic fairy tale, when told right, about something perfect that is unable to sustain forever. A Cortez is amognst us all. The guitars will tell you that ;)
    kdawggyon June 02, 2006   Link

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