A day after news broke that he was in hospice care, former Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell has died. He was 56. According to the New York Times, the cause of death was liver failure. Harwell brought a gravelly slam-poet energy to Smash Mouth, who first attained mainstream attention with “Walking on the Sun.” The lead single off Fush Yu Mang, it evoked the lounge-revival scene that bubbled under the radar in ’90s music. “It was so different and it was so unusual, and it was so special. It just had that sound that we created,” Harwell said of the song in 2019. “Ask anybody that’s tried to copy us, you can’t. You just can’t.”
The band is best remembered for “All Star,” which featured on (first) the Mystery Men and (more famously) the Shrek soundtracks. Its first line, sung by Harwell, is meme and karaoke canon. Besides “All Star,” Smash Mouth also contributed songs to the Can’t Hardly Wait, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Snow Day, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Rat Race soundtracks.
“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,” the band wrote on Smash Mouth’s official Instagram page. The post also saluted Harwell’s “irrepressible charm and charisma, his fearlessly reckless ambition, and his king-size cajones.”