Steve Harwell, Former Smash Mouth Lead Singer, Dies at 56

Steve Harwell, the former lead singer of the rock band Smash Mouth, which was best known for its ubiquitous 1999 hit “All Star,” died on Monday. He was 56.

His death, at his home in Boise, Idaho, was confirmed by the band’s manager, Robert Hayes, who said the cause was liver failure.

Smash Mouth was founded in 1994 in San Jose, Calif., and was made up of Harwell, the lead singer, Kevin Coleman on the drums, Greg Camp on the guitar, and Paul De Lisle on the bass. The band first broke out with their 1997 song “Walkin’ on the Sun,” which appeared on their debut album, “Fush Yu Mang.”

“‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ changed music. It changed the way people listen to music,” Harwell told Rolling Stone in 2019. “It was so different and it was so unusual, and it was so special. It just had that sound that we created. Ask anybody that’s tried to copy us, you can’t. You just can’t.”

The band enjoyed even greater success with the release of their next album, “Astro Lounge,” in 1999, and its chart-topping hit “All Star.” The song, which was nominated for a Grammy Award, also appeared in numerous films, and enjoyed newfound popularity two years later when it was featured in the opening credits of “Shrek,” the Academy Award-winning animated film about an ogre voiced by Mike Myers.

“We had no clue how big ‘Shrek’ was going to be,” Harwell said in the 2019 interview with Rolling Stone. (“All Star” also appeared on the soundtrack for the 1999 film “Mystery Men,” whose characters feature in the song’s music video.)

Since then, “All Star” has lived on, becoming a rich source for online parodies. Nearly 25 years later, the sound of Harwell’s voice is still linked to the song’s recognizable opening lines: “Somebody once told me / The world is gonna roll me / I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”

“All Star” has close to a billion streams on Spotify. “Walkin’ on the Sun” and “I’m a Believer,” a cover of the Monkees song that also appeared on the “Shrek” soundtrack, have also garnered hundreds of millions of streams.

Harwell left the band in 2021 and retired from performing altogether after a live show in upstate New York during which he is seen slurring his words and using profanity. Earlier that year, Harwell had taken a break from live performing because of heart problems, according to several news media reports at the time.

Smash Mouth, which has had a rotating lineup over the years, has not released a new studio album in about a decade, but it has released new singles, including “Underground Sun” this year, with a different lead singer.

The band still performs — including a show scheduled for Saturday in Illinois — but it will forever be associated with “All Star,” something that Harwell was aware of.

“Nobody else could have sang that song.” Harwell told Rolling Stone in 2019. “It would have never been what it is now. I could’ve pitched that song to a million bands and they would have tried to do it, and it would’ve never been what it is.”

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