Amberlin, a Long Beach-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, artfully composes spacious soundscapes that she builds musically layer by layer. On her song “Golden Rule,” Amberlin plays drums, rhythm guitar, bass, and synth, while Rufus Phillips adds crystalline and never-waste-a-note lead guitar runs. She weaves her evocative vocals, opening with a rap scat and blooming into a soaring R&B melody that reaches into our hearts and inspires us to action.
Amberlin started writing the song five years ago after she moved in with her grandmother. “She’s in church every Sunday,” says Amberlin, “and I started going with her so I could spend more time with her and so I could learn more about the Bible.” The pastor at the church, she recalls, would say some really hateful stuff in his sermons, especially about LGBTQ individuals and Muslims. “I would get angry, and I came home one Sunday and wrote down the line ‘wasn’t it Jesus Christ who said…’ I started writing down a lot of other people’s names—, Malcolm X, Dr. King, Gandhi—and several months later I started writing the song.”
“Golden Rule” opens with Amberlin’s defiant cries to let the hungry eat and to end violence with peace. She then pleads: “Tear down the wall that separates us all.” Amberlin name-checks historical figures whose words have been twisted and used by people in power to sustain inequity and injustice in our culture. She starts by asking, “Wasn’t it Jesus Christ who said/Love your neighbor as yourself?” The take away from the Bible is love, Amberlin insists. “If you give another person the love you give yourself; extending the love I have for myself to other people.” Amberlin moves on to Thomas Jefferson: “Wasn’t it Jefferson who said/Enlighten the people?” She points out, though, that many people in our society have “bastardized the Constitution” to achieve their own ends (“to suit your own ideological ways”), locking others in a cycle of darkness, fear, and unfreedom. With a canny turn of phrase, Amberlin turns the tables on these people who fail to love one another as themselves and who harm one another with their ideological myopia: “I believe/In the Golden Rule/All that you done/Is gonna come back on you.” At the end of the song, Amberlin proclaims: “Stand up for what you believe!” “The song,” she says, “was to call out hypocrites—people who say they are Christians but don’t act like it.”
In 2020, Amberlin combines her passion for social justice with her evocative music and lyrics in the video for her powerful song “Golden Rule,” an anthem for our times. She uses her platform to help people and to give a voice to the voiceless. “I fight because I have hope,” Amberlin says. “I think we are evolving as a society. People are starting to wake up to the inequities of society. What I would like to see are people in power held accountable for their actions. Once we come to terms with our role in it, we can improve it.”