10 iconic rock the vote ads, featuring kate moss and madonna

Watch musicians, models and artists urge the MTV generation to use their voices and get to the polls in our favorite spots from 1990 to 2000.

by Taylor Ford
28 September 2016, 10:15pm

26 years ago, a group of Virgin Records executives launched the Rock the Vote campaign in response to Tipper Gore's plight to censor "explicit" content in the music industry. At the height of MTV's popularity, and long before Howard Stern was ever seriously mentioned in a presidential debate, dropping the F-bomb on a track was a pretty big fucking deal. With the censorship of creative freedom looming over Generation X, the campaign partnered with MTV to tap the most popular, outspoken, and controversial artists of the time to help shine a light on the big issues facing young people — and encourage young people to vote. These short PSAs have become iconic and influential in every election since.

As we look ahead to one of the most important presidential elections in U.S. history, this November, here are 10 of the best vintage Rock the Vote spots from 1990 to 2000. If these ads helped get a Clinton in the White House the first time around, here's to hoping it works again.

Madonna (1990)
Draped in an American flag, the always controversial Madonna riffs an acapella version of her song "Vogue" — replacing the words with "get up and vote!" — in the first-ever Rock the Vote PSA. Flanked by two men in cutoff denim shorts, she snaps along to the beat and spits some bars about the importance of the First Amendment.

Lita Ford (1990)
The Runaways guitarist lights a cassette tape on fire as she compares the censorship of America in the 90s to that of Germany in the 30s. It all starts with one spark.

LL Cool J (1992)
After calling out all the BS excuses young people use to not vote, LL Cool J asks, "How weird do things have to get before you register and vote?" (Fast forward to 2016: APPARENTLY PRETTY WEIRD).

Sarah Jessica Parker & Robert Downey Jr. (1992)
If you forgot SJP & RDJ ever dated, then you probably also forgot about this spot, in which Sarah Jessica tries her hand at mime while The Brat Pack bad boy earnestly asserts "art is not produced in a vacuum."

Deee-Lite (1992)
Lady Miss Kier go-go dances with the freedom of the swinging 60s, as the shadowy human embodiments of censorship lurk behind her.

Michael Jackson (1992)
The late King of Pop makes a plea for his "country to come together and express our freedom of choice" — a sentiment reiterated in the hymnal Free Willy soundtrack he released earlier that year.

Marky Mark (1992)
In the prime of his underwear-modeling youth, Mark Wahlberg flexes his muscles as he drops a statistic even more jaw-dropping than what's in his Calvins: there are 26 million people between the ages of 18 and 24 in the U.S. with the power to start a revolution. (In 2016, this number has crept up to 31.5 million. Let the revolution begin.)

Chuck D (1996)
Public Enemy MC Chuck D entreats viewers to not only fight the power but also use the power, by exercising their right to vote. 

Iggy Pop & Kate Moss (1996) 
Soundtracked by The Stooges' patriotic anthem "1969" — and dressed in trippy red, white, and blue Stephen Sprouse — Kate Moss asks Iggy Pop if he's going to vote. "Yeah," he says, "Choose. Or Lose."

Rap the Vote (2000)
After a decade of success in getting young voters to the polls, Rock the Vote teamed up with Russell Simmons to create "Rap the Vote," an offshoot focused on engaging and educating black youth about issues such as police brutality and racial profiling. The hip-hop mogul tapped Sean "Puffy" Combs, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Dead Prez, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, and Mary J. Blige, an artist who has never stopped bringing awareness to important social issues.


Text Taylor Ford

Michael Jackson
Iggy Pop
Sarah Jessica Parker
LL Cool J
lita ford
Queen Latifah
Chuck D.
Robert Downey Jr
Rock the Vote
Marky Mark
lady miss kier
rap the vote