Smash Mouth vocalist Steve Harwell dead at 56

Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell
(Image credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Steve Harwell, frontman of US power-pop band Smash Mouth, has died, aged 56.

The Californian musician, best known for hit singles All Star and Walkin' On The Sun, died at home in Boise, Idaho, surrounded by his fiancée, family and friends, his manager Robert Hayes confirmed in a statement to Rolling Stone. The cause of death was liver failure.

CBS reported yesterday that the singer was "receiving hospice care treatment at home", and Hayes had asked that fans and media respect the family's privacy.

Harwell was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition associated with heart failure, in 2015. He also suffered from acute Wernicke encephalopathy, which can impact balance and movement, cause confusion, and damage eyesight.

In today's statement given to Rolling Stone, Robert Hayes paid tribute to Harwell, who co-founded Smash Mouth in 1994, and fronted the band through to 2021, his last gig with the group coming at the Big Sip Beer and Wine Festival at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York.

Hayes wrote: "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 percent full-throttle life. Burning brightly across the universe before burning out."

Smash Mouth signed to Interscope Records in 1997, and released their debut album, Fush Yu Mang, that same year: featuring the hit single Walkin' On The Sun and a cover of War's Why Can't We Be Friends, the album went on to sell two million copies in the US alone. The group's second album, Astro Lounge, released in 1999, and featuring the hit single All Star, was certified triple platinum in the US for three million sales. All Star susequently featured in the hit animated comedy Shrek, and became an internet meme: at the time of writing, the song has over 954 million plays on Spotify.

Speaking to Rolling Stone about the track in 2019, Harwell said, "The song just won’t go away because it’s just one of those songs. It’s like fucking Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven. It’s like fuckin’ Lynyrd Skynyrd. You have certain songs that bands make that just don’t go away. We were blessed with that, and it was All Star."

Smash Mouth’s most recent album, Magic, their seventh record, was released in 2012. Upon Steve Harwell's exit from the group, they recruited Zach Goode as their new frontman.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.