Steve Harwell, the lead vocalist of Smash Mouth, has died. The singer’s manager, Robert Hayes, confirmed to Rolling Stone that Harwell “passed peacefully and comfortably” at his home in Boise, “surrounded by family and friends.” He was 56.
Smash Mouth shared the following statement on their Instagram account:
Steve Harwell was a true American Original. A larger than life character 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.
And the fact that he achieved this near-impossible goal with very limited musical experience makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable. His only tools were his irrepressible charm and charisma, his fearlessly reckless ambition, and his king-size cajones.
Steve lived a 100% full-throttle life.
Burning brightly across the universe before burning out.
Good night Heevo Veev.
Rest in peace knowing you aimed for the stars, and magically hit your target.
Born in Santa Clara, California in 1967, Harwell co-founded Smash Mouth in 1994 with bassist Paul De Lisle, guitarist Greg Camp, and drummer Kevin Coleman. After catching the attention of Interscope Records with their demo of ‘Nervous In The Alley’, they released their debut album, Fush Yu Mang, in July 1997. It featured the band’s cover of War’s ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ as well as their first hit single, ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’.
Smash Mouth followed up Fush Yu Mang with 1999’s Astro Lounge, which went triple platinum and spawned their most ubiquitous single, ‘All Star’. The song, which hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, was featured prominently on the first Shrek film along with the band’s rendition of the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Believer’. That cover ended up on Smash Mouth’s self-titled album, which came out in 2001. The band put out one more LP, 2003’s Get the Picture?, before moving to Universal and releasing Summer Girl in 2006. Their most recent studio album, Magic, dropped in 2012. The group continued to tour through various lineup changes, with Harwell and Paul De Lisle remaining the two most consistent members of the live band.
Harwell suffered from numerous health issues in the years preceding his death, leading to him retiring from Smash Mouth in October 2021. In 2013, he was diagnosed with the heart ailment cardiomyopathy and a neurological condition, acute Wernicke encephalopathy, which impacted his memory and speech. In 2016, he collapsed onstage at a festival. His decision to leave Smash Mouth came after a “chaotic” New York show in 2021, durich which he was filmed slurring his words and threatening the audience.
“Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of being a Rockstar performing in front of sold-out arenas and have been so fortunate to live out that dream,” Harwell said in a statement at the time. “To my bandmates, it’s been an honour performing with you all these years, and I can’t think of anyone else I would have rather gone on this wild journey with.”