Steve Harwell, the former lead vocalist of the famous rock band Smash Mouth, whose successes in the late 1990s included ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ and ‘All-Star,’ died at the age of 56.
The band’s manager, Robert Hayes, verified his liver failure-related death.
Smash Mouth: ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ to ‘All-Star’ Triumph
Smash Mouth was founded in 1994 in San Jose, California, with Steve Harwell on lead vocals, Greg Camp on guitar, Kevin Coleman on drums, and Paul De Lisio on bass.
The release of ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ from their debut album ‘Fush Yu Mang’ (1997) marked the beginning of their rise to prominence. Ordination?
‘Walkin’ on the Sun0’ became a staple on MTV and atop Billboard’s alternative chart because it is an upbeat song with a trace of melancholy.
The music video for the song introduced the band’s distinctive style by depicting the members wearing short-sleeved shirts, shades, fedoras, and soul patches, giving off a vintage hipster atmosphere.
In a 1997 interview, Steve Harwell stated that the band’s goal was to be ‘Smash Mouth’ without being pigeonholed into a specific genre, allowing listeners to interpret their music creatively.
However, the band’s triumph came with ‘All-Star,’ included in their 1999 album ‘Astro Lounge.’
The song became an anthem for dissidents with a more robust sound and a suggestion of defiance in Harwell’s vocals:
Hey now, you’re an all star
Get your game on, go play
Hey now, you’re a rock star
Get the show on, get paid
‘All-Star,’ written by guitarist Greg Camp, reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, the band’s highest position ever. Additionally, the tune acquired enduring popularity via several film soundtracks, including ‘Inspector Gadget’ and ‘Mystery Men.’
It received its most significant exposure during the opening credits of the animated blockbuster “Shrek.”
Steve Harwell: Smash Mouth’s ‘All-Star’ Legacy
The ‘Shrek’ soundtrack, which included Smash Mouth’s rendition of the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Believer,’ was certified double platinum, while the film itself garnered the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. ‘All-Star’ became a legendary song.
Since then, ‘All-Star’ has taken off and developed into a vibrant online parody resource.
Steve Harwell’s distinctive voice is still associated with the song’s memorable opening lyrics: Somebody once told me/The world is gonna roll me/I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”
Steve Harwell, born in San Jose on January 9, 1967, began his musical career as a performer with the West Coast-influenced group F.O.S. (Freedom of Speech).
However, he quickly transitioned to the alternative rock scene, which led to the formation of Smash Mouth.
After “Astro Lounge,” Smash Mouth issued five more studio albums with varying degrees of success through 2012. In 2006, Steve Harwell appeared as a cast member on the VH1 series “The Surreal Life,” in which he cohabited with other ex-celebrities.
Over the past decade, Steve Harwell has struggled with health issues and intermittent aberrant behavior. He was identified with cardiomyopathy and Wernicke’s encephalopathy in 2013.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Smash Mouth performed at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota in August 2020, attracting criticism for disregarding safety precautions.
After an incident during a concert in upstate New York in 2021, Steve Harwell quit the band and retired from performing.
Smash Mouth recruited a new main vocalist, Zach Goode, and continues to perform despite his departure.
Steve Harwell is survived by his fiancée, Annette Jones, his fiancé’s sister, Carla Crocker, and his sisters, Michelle Baroni and Julie Harwell.
In a statement, the new lead vocalist, Zach Goode, expressed his dedication to carrying on the band’s legacy:
“I adore singing these songs every night and continuing in the spirit of rock n roll in front of the greatest fans in the world. I will continue to attempt, in my own manner, to pay homage to what Steve and the ensemble have created.”