Former Smash Mouth singer Steve Harwell, whose signature rasp can be heard on the ska/punk-pop classics ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’, ‘All Star’, ‘The Morning Comes’ and ‘I’m a Believer’,” has passed away, after a long battle with various health issues that forced him to retire in 2021. He was 56 years old. On Sunday, Smash Mouth manager Robert Hayes announced that Harwell had been placed in hospice for end-stage chronic liver failure, being cared for by his fiancé and that he had “only a week or so to live.”
Hayes said in a statement that Harwell passed away “peacefully and comfortably” Monday morning at his home in Boise, Idaho, “surrounded by family and friends,” adding: “Steve has been retired from Smash Mouth for two years now, and the band continues to tour with new vocalist Zach Goode. That said, Steve’s legacy will live on in music. Together with Steve, Smash Mouth has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide and topped the charts with two No. 1 hit singles, five Top 40 singles, three Hot 100 singles, four Billboard 200 albums and a Grammy nomination, to not to mention the hundreds of movies and movies. television placements and of course those musical features in it Shrek.
“Steve’s iconic voice is one of the most recognizable voices of his generation. He loved the fans and loved performing,” Hayes continued. “Steve Harwell was a true American original. A larger than life character who shot into the air like a Roman candle. Steve is to be remembered for his relentless focus and passionate determination to reach the heights of pop stardom. And the fact that he achieved this virtually impossible goal with very limited musical experience makes his achievements all the more remarkable. His only tools were his irrepressible charm and charisma, his fearless reckless ambition and his king size cajones. Steve lived a life that was 100 percent full throttle. Burning brightly through the universe before it burns out.”
Steven Scott Harwell was born on January 9, 1967 in Santa Clara, California, and after fronting a rap group called FOS (Freedom of Speech) in the early ’90s, he formed Smash Mouth in San Jose with drummer Kevin Coleman, guitarist Greg Camp and bassist Paul De Lisle in 1994. After Smash Mouth (formerly stylized as Smashmouth) signed to Interscope Records in 1997, they released their debut album. Fush Yu Mangwhich was backed by the faint funk groove of the spy movie/beach blanket romper ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ and a bouncy, earnest cover of War’s ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’.
“Walkin’ on the Sun” went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart and Fush Yu Mang sold 2 million copies, but Smash Mouth’s second album from 1999, Astro lounge, was even more successful, going triple platinum and spawning an even bigger hit single: ‘All Star’. The sunny stadium song peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Twenty years later, “All Star” took on a whole new, unexpected life as an internet meme, becoming one of the most-streamed rock songs in the US between 2017 and 2021.
“I try not to pay much attention to social media. I try not to personally read and watch all that nonsense. But I think it’s cool that ‘All Star’ has had such a resurgence,” Harwell said Stereo gum in 2017.
Over the course of their career, Smash Mouth has sold over 10 million albums and scored a total of 10 Billboard hits. In addition to their original songs, they were known for their punchy covers, including “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” the Neil Diamond-penned Monkees classic “I’m a Believer,” Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, and “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” by Question Mark & the Mysterians.
Along with 2001’s “I’m a Believer”. Shrek and “Why Can’t We Be Friends” for 1998 wild things, Smash Mouth recorded other movie numbers, such as a cover of the Beatles’ “Getting Better.” The cat in the hat and a new version of “I Wan’na Be Like You”. The Jungle Book 2both in 2003. Harwell and Smash Mouth also composed two original songs, “Beside Myself” and “Everything Just Crazy”, for the 2013 South Korean animated film Pororo, the racing adventure. In 2001, the group appeared as themselves in the comedy film Jerry Zucker Rat race. Harwell also famously appeared as himself on the small screen in 2006, during the sixth season of VH1’s “celebreality” show surreal life, alongside roommates Alexis Arquette, Sherman Hemsley and Tawny Kitaen (all of whom are now deceased) and Poison guitarist CC DeVille.
In 2013, Harwell was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (a form of heart disease that causes the heart muscle to enlarge and become weak), an acute neurological condition called Wernicke encephalopathy, and heart failure. He also struggled with alcohol abuse for much of his life. In August 2016, while performing at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival in Urbana, Illinois, he collapsed onstage and was taken to the hospital by ambulance, with De Lisle filling in on lead vocals for the remainder of Smash Mouth’s set. In 2017, the band postponed several concerts while Harwell underwent treatment for his heart problems. A replacement singer was brought in to take over for some performances, surprising many attendees who hadn’t noticed the switch at first.
Harwell eventually returned to performing live, but in October 2021, he made a bizarre appearance at the Big Sip beer and wine festival at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Hudson Valley, where he appeared intoxicated – slurring his words, the audience threatening, and even giving what appeared to be a Nazi salute. After that debacle, which had gone viral via TikTok, Harwell officially announced his retirement due to his “longstanding medical issues.” A rep for Smash Mouth explained at the time that the singer had forgotten “where he was [and] his own lyrics” at Bethel Woods and had “limited understanding of his surroundings because of one of his episodes.”
The Smash Mouth rep went on to reveal that Harwell had “suffered severely over the years from various types of addiction,” which had “deeply affected his motor functions, including speech and impaired memory.” … Despite Steve’s best efforts to come to terms with these ailments, he is heartbroken to say that it has become impossible for him to continue doing what he loves most: performing for the band’s millions of fans around the world.
“Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of being a rock star performing to sold-out arenas and I’ve been lucky enough to fulfill that dream,” Harwell said in a 2021 statement after his retirement. “It has been an honor for my bandmates to perform with you all these years and I can’t think of anyone else I would rather have been on this wild journey with. To our loyal and amazing fans: thank you, all this was possible because of you. I tried so hard to overcome my physical and mental health issues and play for you one last time, but I just couldn’t.
With Harwell’s support, his Smash Mouth bandmates (De Lisle was the only surviving member from the original ’90s lineup) then sought a new permanent frontman, eventually hiring Zach Goode in January 2022. You who helped Smash Mouth sell over 10 million albums worldwide, put us at the top of the radio charts and those who kept ‘All Star’ relevant as one of the best memes on the internet today,” said Harwell. “I can’t wait to see what Smash Mouth will achieve next and I look forward to counting myself as one of the band’s newest fans.”
This isn’t the first time the Harwell family has faced a health tragedy. In 2001, the 8-month-old son of Smash Mouth frontman and his then-wife Michelle Laroque, Presley Scott Harwell, died of complications from acute lymphoblastic leukemia after being ill with the disease for just a few weeks. The singer later founded the Presley Scott Research Foundation for Leukemia in his son’s honor.
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