Steve Harwell, the Grammy-nominated pop-rock band Smash Mouth’s longtime frontman, died of severe liver failure. He was 56. Harwell “passed peacefully and comfortably” on Monday morning at his home in Boise, Idaho, where he was accompanied by family and friends, according to the band’s manager, Robert Hayes.
Smash Mouth was famous for smash songs such as All Star and Then The Morning Comes.
“Steve Harwell was an original American.” Hayes described the persona as “a larger-than-life figure who shot up into the sky like a Roman candle.” “Steve should be remembered for his unwavering focus and impassioned determination to reach the heights of pop stardom.”
Harwell, who was born in California in 1967, was a member of the rap group F.O.S. (Freedom of Speech) before founding Smash Mouth in 1994.
Despite receiving local radio airplay for their debut single Big Black Boots, Harwell disbanded the band after hearing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s game-changing work on The Chronic and sensing that the style of rap was about to alter.
He detoured into alternative rock, jamming with an old acquaintance, drummer Kevin Coleman, and eventually forming Smash Mouth with Greg Camp and Paul De Lisle.
Their blend of pop, ska, surf, and punk, as well as retro 60s vibes, produced an early hit in the form of Walkin’ On The Sun, which topped Billboard’s modern rock charts and enabled their debut album Fush Yu Mang join the Top 40.
Smash Mouth Outplayed Critics
Some critics dismissed Smash Mouth as a one-hit wonder, but their second album Astro Lounge in 1999 proved them wrong. It went triple platinum and featured the songs Can’t Get Enough of You Baby and the tremendously catchy All Star – a song that “inexplicably mesmerised the world for 20 years,” according to Rolling Stone magazine.
“The songs are more spread out, less fast and furious,” Harwell told the magazine in 1999 of the band’s second album.
His unusual, raspy rap-singing voice was instantly identifiable, and numerous of Smash Mouth’s tracks became viral.
Although the band never had another hit on the same scale, later albums Smash Mouth (2001), Get the Picture? (2003), Summer Girl (2006), and Magic (2012) demonstrated the band’s persistent ability to create sparkling pop songs.
Harwell’s personal tragedy occurred in 2001, when his newborn son Presley died as a result of complications from acute lymphocytic leukaemia. According to reports, the musician assisted in the establishment of a medical research fund in his son’s honour.
Alcohol Abuse and Bad Health
Harwell raised $15,000 for a children’s hospital ten years later after accepting a dare to eat 24 eggs. However, his own bad health and reported alcohol usage had an impact on several performances over the years.
He collapsed on stage at an Illinois music festival in 2016. The next year, a gig in Memphis was cancelled because he couldn’t breathe during the soundcheck. In 2018, he felt unwell during a gig in Australia and had to leave the stage; the band continued without him.
In the year 2020, he dismissed the seriousness of Covid-19 in front of a large crowd during a biker event in South Dakota. The National Institute of Health later classified the gathering a superspreader event, and Smash Mouth said they received hate mail for performing there.
According to TMZ, his fiancée at the time, Esther Campbell, obtained a restraining order against him the same year.
Harwell said in a statement announcing his retirement in 2021, “I’ve tried so hard to power through my physical and mental health issues, and to play in front of you one last time, but I just wasn’t able to.”
According to the band’s management, “Steve should be remembered for his unwavering focus and impassioned determination to reach the heights of pop stardom.”
“And the fact that he accomplished this near-impossible feat with very little musical experience adds to his achievements.”
“His only weapons were his unstoppable charm and charisma, his fearlessly reckless ambition, and his king-sized cajones.”
“Good evening, Heevo Veev. Rest easy knowing that you shot for the stars and magically hit your target. Those who knew and loved him will miss him tremendously.”
Smash Mouth’s lineup has changed multiple times over the years, with bassist Paul De Lisle remaining the only original member, and Zach Goode taking over as lead singer after Harwell resigned.