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'39 is a song contained on the Queen album A Night at the Opera (album). Guitarist Brian May's '39 is a great skiffle (folk) song with himself singing. The song is a science-fiction song about a man who goes space-travelling for a hundred years but comes back one year older thanks to special relativity.

However the lyrics, at some stages of the song, imply volunteers setting sail for battle in the Second World War. Brian based the song around a story by Herman Hesse called 'The River'.

Brian May: It’s a science-fiction story. It’s the story about someone who goes away and leaves his family and because of the time dilation effect, when you go away, the people on earth have aged a lot more than he has when he comes home. He’s aged a year and they’ve aged 100 years so, instead of coming back to his wife, he comes back to his daughter and he can see his wife in his daughter, a strange story. I think, also, I had in mind a story of Herman Hesse which I think is called ‘The River’. A man leaves his hometown and has lots of travels and then comes back and observes his hometown from the other side of the river. He sees it in a different light having been away and experienced all those different things. He sees it in a very illuminating way, cause I felt a little bit like that about my home at the time as well having been away and seen this vastly different world of rock music. Totally different from the way I was brought up and I had those feelings about home