music / News

Smash Mouth’s Steve Harwell Passes Away

September 4, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Smash Mouth Steve Harwell Image Credit: Interscope Records

Former Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell has passed away. The New York Times reports that Harwell, who largely became the face of the band best known for 1999’s pop culture phenomenon “All Star,” died on Monday of liver failure at his home in Boise, Idaho. He was 56 years old.

Harwell was a founding member of the group, who rose to prominence in the post-grunge era of alternative rock with a sound that mixed ska punk, rock and pop to create the sound that would drive them to two platinum albums in the late 1990s. The band was known not only for “All Star,” which came off their 1997 LP Astro Lounge and has became one of the more meme-worthy songs from that era, but also for covers of retro songs like War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?,” the Four Seasons’ “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby,” and The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.”

Harwell was born in San Jose, California and began his music career rapping in a group known as F.O.S (Freedom of Speech). He ended up forming Smash Mouth with his manager Kevin Coleman, guitarist Greg Camp and bassist Paul De Lisle in 1994. Camp and De Lisle had played in a local punk band, and the group began by playing rock music with Coleman on drums. They were signed to Interscope Records and released their first album, Fush Yu Mang, in July of 1997. Their first single, the ska-tinged “Walkin’ on the Sun,” quickly became a mainstay of alt rock stations and catapulted the group into success.

It was their second album, 1999’s Astro Lounge, that truly turned the group into a household name though. Shedding a good portion of the band’s ska influences for a heavier pop direction, the album included the song “All Star” which became omnipresent in the summer of 1999. The track was featured in two films from 1999, Mystery Men and Inspector Gadget, and though neither film were box office hits they both came out within a month of the album’s release which kept “All Star” strongly promoted. “All Star” would go on to feature in more successful films like 2001’s Shrek and Rat Race, ensuring longevity for the track, and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

While Smash Mouth would never reach the same heights as it did with Astro Lounge, the group continued to tour and release throughout the ’00s including 2001’s self-titled LP, 2003’s Get the Picture?, 2005’s The Gift of Rock and 2006’s Summer Girl. Their most recent album was 2012’s Magic.

Harwell suffered from issues with alcoholism, which exacerbated health issues over the last 10 years in particular. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and Wernicke’s encephalopathy in 2013. He left Smash Mouth in 2021 and retired from performing. Smash Mouth brought in new lead singer Zach Goode last year and is continuing to tour.

On behalf of 411, our best wishes to the family, friends, and fans of Mr. Harwell. He will be missed.

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Smash Mouth, Jeremy Thomas