March 3, 2004 by

Edward Jablonski


Categories: Military, Musicians, Writers/Editors

Edward Jablonski, an author with a penchant for musical biography and history, died on Feb. 10 from heart failure. He was 81.
Jablonski combined these two interests in childhood by hanging out in airports and listening to music. He earned a Silver Star serving in the United States Army Field Artillery during World War II, then graduated from the New School for Social Research. While working for the New York chapter of the March of Dimes, Jablonski started writing record reviews and liner notes for albums. This hobby eventually turned into a distinguished, five-decade career in publishing.
Jablonski’s expertise in aviation and aerial warfare was the focus of several books, including the four-volume series “Airwar,” and two pictorial histories of World Wars I and II. He wrote “Ladybirds: Women in Aviation,” “Flying Fortress: The Illustrated Biographies of the B-17’s and the Men Who Flew Them,” “Warrior With Wings” and “Seawings.”
But he was best known for chronicling the lives of America’s greatest songwriters and composers. As a teenager, Jablonski started a correspondence with Ira Gershwin, a letter exchange that turned into a life-long friendship. Jablonski and Lawrence D. Stewart wrote “The Gershwin Years” in 1958, a biography featuring previously unavailable material from the personal archives of the Gershwin family. Jablonski also penned its 1992 follow-up, “Gershwin Remembered.” His final book was the 1999 biography “Irving Berlin: American Troubadour.”

9 Responses to Edward Jablonski

  1. Bob Tartaglia

    Back in the 1970’s I was music director and arranger for a revue based solely on the music of Harold Arlen. Ed Jablonski was the “godfather” of the project. helping attain material for us and seeing to it that Mr. Arlen took part with us in rehearsals. Ed was always a true gentleman and I enjoyed his company immensely. I kept in touch with him throughout the years and enjoyed our phone conversations. I’m shocked to hear of his death last year. I will always remember sharing an ale and talking about music and musicians with Ed. I will miss the great man and great writer.
    My condolences to his children and family.
    Bob Tartaglia

  2. Chris Kennett

    As a young man in the early 1970s living in Rickmansworth, England, I was first introduced to Ed by his old wartime musical penpal Peter Clay who later provided Ed with a home in England during a research trip. Ed dedicated his 1972 aviation history “Wings of Fire” to Peter and wife Claire and presented me with a signed copy on my first meeting with him in 1973. We remained good friends and corresponded ever since. We shared a taste for fine old ales and I shall always remember the happy times I spent with Ed in McSorley’s Old Alehouse on 7th Street.
    May he rest in peace.

  3. Max A. Nelson Jr.

    I’ve read two of Mr. Jablonski’s books, but was most taken by Flying Fortress. He brought the human side to what was then the cutting edge of battle technology, no less than cruise missles are today.
    He put faces on those men and voices in their throats and made me feel their fear, and their victory.
    God bless Mr. Jablonski, and God bless his loved ones.
    Max Nelson

  4. Tony Coulter

    Flying Fortress was one of the first books about Willy Willy Deuce that I ever bought. I think it cost about $6.00 and it was a considerable price for an 11 year old in 1965. I love that book and have read it many times since. His ability to translate the feelings and accomplishments of the plane and the men who flew her was magnificent. He will be missed , but always appreciated for helping what has become a life long love of history.

  5. Eileen Forster Keck

    Mr. Jablonski’s books–I’ve so far read only some of those dedicated to George Gershwin–are a delight.
    I wish I’d discovered them early enough to have written him a letter of thanks. He brings his subjects to life: swarthy, charming, ego-centric and completely fascinating, George Gershwin is alive to me, and always will be, mainly because of Edward Jablonski’s talents.
    My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
    E.F. Keck

  6. L.W. Wiseman

    I was given “Flying Fortress” as a gift in 1970. I loved it. I have since recommended it to many family members and descendents of B-17 crew members who want to know what it was like for their Dads, Uncles and grand dads. Thankyou Mr.Jablonski for a life dedicated to preserving our true history.
    S/F & Rest in Peace

  7. D. Jimenez

    I remember reading “Flying Fortress” as a kid and being the only kid who continually checked it from the library in grade school. The other day I happened by the local library and came across a book slated to be “discarded”. It was a copy of “Double Strike – The Epic Air Raids on Regensburg/ Schweinfurt”. Of course I dove right in and Mr. Jablonski’s writing is as tight & fresh as when it came out in the early 70’s. Some may wish to discard our history but I for one won’t forget! Thanks Ed. RIP.

  8. Mike Burduck

    I first heard about “Flying Fortress” via an insert in TV Guide when I was about ten years old. Around 1970 I got a copy of the book and have loved it ever since. The next time I see contrails in the sky, I’ll know it’s Mr. Jablonski piloting a B-17 through the heavens. Thank you for your tribute to the men who flew these great machines, and thank you for helping a small boy learn to appreciate this great plane and the men who flew her. In pace requiescat. May God Bless you and your family.
    Mike Burduck

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