Smash Mouth lead singer dead at 56

Wednesday 06 September 2023

Steve Harwell, the 56 year old founding singer of Smash Mouth, has at his home in Boise, Idaho, of liver failure, The New York Times reported. 

View our tribute playlist 

Harwell dealt with alcoholism and numerous health issues in the years preceding his death. In 2013, he was diagnosed with a heart condition (cardiomyopathy) and a neurological condition (acute Wernicke encephalopathy). He collapsed onstage during a concert a few years later, and, in 2021, he retired from performing following a difficult show in New York. “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 at the time. “To my bandmates, it’s been an honor performing with you all these years and I can’t think of anyone else I would have rather gone on this wild journey with.”

Smash Mouth paid tribute via instagram:

"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."


Harwell formed Smash Mouth with his manager (drummer Kevin Coleman), guitarist Greg Camp, and bassist Paul De Lisle, the latter of whom still tours with the band releasing their debut studio album, Fush Yu Mang, in July 1997 featuring their first big single, “Walkin’ on the Sun.”

After Fush Yu Mang came Smash Mouth’s most popular album, 1999’s Astro Lounge, featuring the massive hit “All Star,” which spent 30 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 4. The single also earned Smash Mouth their only Grammy nomination. Following the LP’s release, a Rolling Stone reporter asked Harwell, “Does this album make you happy?” The singer replied:

Fuck, yeah. Last night, right before we got pulled over, we listened to Fush Yu Mang for the first time in about a year. It’s a fun record, but the new stuff just feels better, you know? The first one was almost like a speed high, and it kinda pissed me off because I felt that it didn’t show even a third of what we were capable of. With this one, I can just kick back and enjoy it. The songs are more spread out, less fast and furious.

Smash Mouth grew more popular when “All Star” and their cover of the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” were featured in the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek. The band, apparently, was initially resistant to covering the Monkees for the film, writing in 2018, “Actually we said no and Michael Austin from Dreamworks kept calling. That went on for over a month.”

Along with appearing on the Shrek soundtrack, “I’m a Believer” featured on Smash Mouth’s 2001 self-titled album. The band went on to release four more studio albums with Harwell: 2003’s Get the Picture?; 2005’s The Gift of Rock; 2006’s Summer Girl; and 2012’s Magic.

In 2014, Harwell was asked about “All Star” as the song reached its 15th anniversary. “It feels like it came out yesterday,” he told Vice. “It’s weird, people ask me, ‘Do you get bored of playing these songs?’ I’m like, ‘Why would I get bored of playing them? This is what puts bread and butter on my table.’ You know, there’s always somebody in the crowd who hasn’t heard it. Or hasn’t seen it live. When I go out onstage, I look at it that way. Once that classic song starts, people just go bananas. Has ‘Free Bird’ ever got old?”

Harwell added: “It kind of pisses me off sometimes when people ask me that question because I’m like, ‘Really? Why would I get bored of singing these songs? These are probably some of the best-written songs ever.’”