Steve Harwell, the singer who took one of the most popular San Jose bands of all time – Smash Mouth – to great heights in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, died Monday at the age of 56.
“Steve Harwell was a true American Original,” the band posted Monday about the passing of its former lead singer on X (formerly known as Twitter). “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 stars, and magically hit your target. Rest easy.”
Harwell died from liver failure at his home in Boise, Idaho, the band’s manager, Robert Hayes, confirmed to the New York Times.
Harwell will be remembered as the rowdy, upbeat voice of the Smash Mouth hits “Walkin’ on the Sun,” “I’m a Believer” and, especially, “All Star.”
Originally released on Smash Mouth’s sophomore album, 1999’s “Astro Lounge,” the entirely catchy “All Star” was quickly utilized in a number of different films, including “Inspector Gadget” and “Mystery Men” — the latter of which played into the band’s music video for the song.
The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart and wound up being nominated for a Grammy.
Yet, it would grow even more popular two years later when it was memorably featured in the opening credits of the 2001 DreamWorks animated smash “Shrek.”
Smash Mouth basically ended up opening and closing the film, as the San Jose band’s cover of “I’m a Believer” – the Neil Diamond-penned Monkees hit from 1966 – was chosen for the closing scene of the film.
The massive success of the “Shrek” – which ranked only second to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on the list of top-grossing films in the U.S. in 2001 – greatly expanded Smash Mouth’s fan base, especially among younger listeners.
Yet, it wasn’t just a temporary occurrence, but, really, something that has continued on to this day as new generations of viewers journey into the magical world of Shrek, Donkey and Fiona.
For people who grew up during the time of “Shrek,” these Smash Mouth songs will likely be remembered as fondly as earlier generations recall such Disney tunes as “Someday My Prince Will Come” and even “When You Wish Upon a Star.”