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Sunday, January 07, 2024

1st REACTION & ANALYSIS: Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" by Classical Musician Amy Shafer

Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" 
Reaction by Classical Musician Amy Shafer

Here's another one of those "Reaction" videos that seems to be a "Trend" on the Tube of You's these days.

Amy Shafer, LRSM, FRSM, RYC, is a classical harpist, pianist, and music teacher, Director of Piano Studies and Assistant Director of Harp Studies for The Harp School, Inc., holds multiple degrees in harp and piano performance and teaching, and is active as a solo and collaborative performer.  (Thanks Bob G.!)

Here is reaction and analysis of Neil Young's song "Cortez the Killer". 

If you haven't checked out these types of reaction videos before, they're pretty cool to watch just for the physical reactions themselves. 

More analysis of Neil Young's song  "Cortez The Killer".

More on "Reaction" videos:

First Listen Reaction: 
"Danger Bird" by NEIL YOUNG and CRAZY HORSE | PERK'S reCAP
A First Reaction To Neil Young's Music - "Cortez The Killer" 
Reaction To Hearing Neil Young For The 1st Time

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At 1/07/2024 03:05:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

A comment on the YT video by @LeeKennison:

I absolutely loved this reaction and your commentary, particularly since Neil is my all-time favorite individual artist, in terms of the one I have listened to the most over the last 50 years, and Cortez is one of my favorite songs. Tough choice though since he has such a wide variety of songs I love that show different facets of his work over many years, from his acoustic folk to his various rock styles, along with other styles. I was a bit nervous as to what you would think (particularly with the long guitar intro and his voice), so I was thrilled that you enjoyed it so much. I knew you would have great commentary on the lyrics and story telling, and you didn't disappoint. Once you made the Dylan association I knew that you really got Neil, in terms of his lyrics and story telling. I imagine this is also why I am such a big fan of Ren, since I put him in this same group. This was indirectly affirmed when you referred to his bardic story telling. And like Dylan and Ren his songs often have social commentary on the times they live in.

As is usually the case, you are able to articulate in words what you are experiencing from just one listen, far better than I can after having listened to this song many times for almost 50 years. I have had that same image of Cortez's ships crossing the ocean during the guitar intro, and you were able to put this image into very descriptive words. I was relieved that you caught and commented on when he shifts from 3rd person historical story telling to 1st person present day, with your logical interpretation that fits with the theme of the song. Whereas I have always taken it as more surreal mystical reflection and journey of the mind across time and space, in which he feels he belongs back in that world and doesn't know how he ended up in our present day.

Neil is one of those who speaks about his muse, since he says a lot of his lyrics and songs just seem to come out of nowhere. So it is not surprising that this has a bit of a surreal or mystical dream like quality. Since if our muses are really just our subconscious, that is the same place some of our more fantastical and surreal dreams come from.

One thing I find interesting is that the songs title makes you think it is about Cortez, but it is more about the lives of the Aztecs with the reminder at the end that this world was lost, because of the destructive nature of our societal greed that leads to the desire to dominate or destroy anything that is different and opposes our world view. Of course much of this destruction was unintentional, due to the diseases they brought with them that the Aztecs didn't have an immunity or resistance to.

At 1/08/2024 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

As per NYA Neil Young just announced a tour in April. Beneath a picture of the Zuma bus taken by Daryl Hannah during the Vortex tour, the recent Crazy Horse concert in Toronto is mentioned as a kind of teaser for the tour. So it's not unlikely it is going to be a tour with a rejuvenated Crazy Micah Horse. Mentioning the Vortex tour, Toronto this announcement also opens a promising horizon for Canadians. A spring tour still leaves time for a summer trip to Europe, Mrs. Vlassic!

At 1/08/2024 04:09:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Dionys.

Sure hope Neil is able to swing across the pond to Europe this summer in whatever configuration emerges.

Posted @

At 1/11/2024 12:44:00 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Late to this but really enjoyed watching and listening to this today. Then again I could quite happily listen to Cortez all day long...

A great comment by LeeKennison and I share some of his reactions to Amy's comments and analysis. Like many over the years I have often wondered about the pivot from 3rd person to 1st person which comes as such a surprise when you first listen to the song. I think this comment from @ronaldwilhelm3449 might be the answer though - sounds quite plausible to me.

"This song has many layers of depth to it. It is a song about Cortez and the Aztecs, but in the context of the whole album, Zuma, it also serves as an allegory to human relationships, which is what the entire Zuma album is about. The theme of the album follows the singer's emotions as he deals with a personal break-up. How he blames the woman (Don't Cry No Tears, Danger Bird, Pardon my Heart), how he tries to restart his life (Looking for a Lover, Barstool Blues), how he shows contempt for the women in his life (Stupid Girl, Drive Back) and how he realizes, finally, that the fault is his (Cortez) dancing in and destroying the life of another person ("I still can't remember when or how I lost my way"). "Through my Sails" ends the album, with the singer reaching a new realization about himself and relationships. In the context of the album, it all makes sense. It is amazing to me, that the climax of the album, when he finally realizes that he is Cortez, Neil uses an allegory to the destruction of the Aztec civilization. What happens when a selfish spirit, invades the tranquility of another person and destroys their world. Since individual relationships, and civilization relationships are all "human relationships", Neil is giving the Zuma singer the ultimate moment of realization. He is Cortez.


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