Some of Dad's records, in my living room
This pattern of music collection as identity repeated itself as new media came and went, and it was not limited to jazz. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and other figures of the British Invasion collected pressings of American blues musicians. Early hip hop DJs wore out their copies of Funkadelic records. You could tell a lot about a person by looking at their record or CD collection. These were often displayed in prominent places in someone's home, where guests could see right away what their host was listening to. If you ever got bored at a party, you could take a look through the host's music, and usually you would find something of interest, an album you had never heard of, an album you would have never guessed the host would own, one of your favorite albums which might serve to spark a conversation later on. Looking through someone's record collection allowed you to get to know that person in almost an instant.
When my dad finally decided to get rid of the records he had been storing for three-plus decades, he let me look through them and keep whatever I wanted. Of the 300 or so albums he had, I kept about a third, mostly albums he had bought in high school and college (Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, etc.). Though I rarely listen to these records, they have sparked many a conversation with my dad that eventually veer off into discussions of history, culture, politics, etc. But more than that, these records, which I've moved to three different apartments in the past five years, give me a connection to my dad for which I cannot think of an analog. They are in many ways a physical representation of himself, sitting in my living room, always there. I can call him anytime, but the records give him a presence in my life that a cell phone simply cannot.
A music collection in the 20th century
So instead of showing people my record collection, I write this here blog. It's a bit more work, and it does not even begin to capture the entirety of my taste as well as a record collection could. But it's a start.