Smash Mouth co-founder and former lead singer Steve Harwell has passed away at 56. Harwell retired from the band (which continues to tour with new singer Zach Goode) in 2021, citing “long-term medical issues.” TMZ reported Sunday that Harwell was in hospice care due to liver failure, and band manager Robert Hayes announced Harwell’s passing Monday, posting a statement on him to the @smashmouth Twitter account:
Steve Harwell was a true American Original. A larger than life character who shot up into the sky like a Roman candle. Steve will be remembered for his unwavering focus and impassioned determination to reach the heights of pop stardom.
Rest in peace knowing you aimed for the… pic.twitter.com/qZDliiIl30
— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) September 4, 2023
That statement being put out on the Smash Mouth Twitter account brings up a sports connection. While Harwell and Smash Mouth found incredible commercial success during the late 1990s and early 2000s in particular, including selling 10 million albums and recording hits like “Walkin’ On The Sun,” “All-Star,” and “I’m A Believer” (the latter two of which got a lot of attention for being featured in the first Shrek film), he wound up getting unusual attention in the sports world in the 2010s. And that was thanks to his tweets.
Harwell and the band were from the Bay Area, with him born in Santa Clara and with the band forming in San Jose in 1994. He became a notable fan of the Golden State Warriors and other Bay Area teams. And that led to him using the @smashmouth account to not just argue with people dismissing the band and have a notable argument with DJ Khaled, but also get into sports spats with everyone from Draymond Green to Drake to the Oakland A’s. (That latter one had an interesting outcome, with then-A’s pitcher Sean Doolittle chiming in with Smash Mouth references. The sides seemingly got along in the end, to the point where Harwell tweeted an offer to play at Doolittle’s wedding before Doolittle even officially announced his engagement.)
It’s not unheard of to see singers use band accounts for personal thoughts, of course. A recent example is the fame Max Collins has found with his thoughts on politics, life, and more at @Eve6, even getting an advice column out of it. But Harwell’s particular sports thoughts and beefs were often quite entertaining, and they became much more prominent thanks to them coming from the highly-followed Smash Mouth account rather than a personal account. There was a lot of unapologetic but also critical fandom for Bay Area teams, and it made for a fun follow.
The last few years were rough for Harwell. His exit from the band in 2021 came after a widely-circulated TikTok video of a disastrous performance at the Big Sip beer festival in Bethel, New York. Harwell staggered around the stage, slurred words, swore at and threatened the crowd, and even performed what seemed to be a Nazi salute at one point. At that time, TMZ reported he had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy eight years earlier and had battled heart failure and Wernicke’s encephalopathy (a brain disorder) as a result, plus substance abuse issues. The health issues continued after his retirement, and it’s sad to see him pass at 56. But it’s definitely worth remembering him for the musical success and more, including those sports Twitter moments.