Smash Mouth Lead Singer Passes After Hospice Care

Steve Harwell, most notably known as the founding lead singer of the rock band Smash Mouth, passed away on Monday, reported longtime band manager Robert Hayes.

Alcohol abuse is suspected to be a major factor in Harwell’s declining health, as Hayes confirmed Harwell had struggled with an addiction to alcohol throughout his life, according to an article published in The Guardian. This is thought to be the main contributing to his late-stage liver failure, confirmed to be the cause of death.

In a public statement, Hayes remembered Harwell as 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.”

He continued, “His only tools were his irrepressible charm and charisma, his fearlessly reckless ambition. Steve lived a 100% full-throttle life. Burning brightly across the universe before burning out. Rest in peace knowing you aimed for the stars, and magically hit your target.”

Harwell entered hospice care on Sunday and died on Monday, surrounded by his fiancée, friends, and family in his Boise, Idaho home. He was 56.

Mainstream Success

Harwell was a founding member of Smash Mouth, with the band rising in popularity thanks to their late 90’s hits “Walkin’ on the Sun” and cover of “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”

It wasn’t until 2001 though, with the release of the first Shrek film, when their hits “All Star” and “I’m a Believer” were featured on the film’s soundtrack that the band achieved mainstream success.

Harwell also dabbled in acting and television, appearing on VH1’s sixth season of The Surreal Life and having a cameo (along with the rest of the band) in the 2001 film Rat Race.

Ongoing Health Problems

Fans were shocked by the news of Harwell entering hospice care and his subsequent passing, though Harwell had a history of ongoing health problems, particularly during the last decade of his life. In 2013, Harwell was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and Wernicke encephalopathy, two health conditions where alcohol use can be an exacerbating factor.

Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease where the heart muscles are not strong enough to pump blood to the rest of the body, which can ultimately result in heart failure. People suffering from cardiomyopathy may present with boating of the abdomen, dizziness, breathlessness, and rapid heartbeat. Excessive, long-term alcohol use is one of the contributing behaviors that can cause this condition.

Similarly, Wernicke encephalopathy, or wet brain, is a neurological condition caused by a lack of B-vitamins. It is commonly diagnosed in people suffering from malnourishment due to alcohol misuse, with symptoms presenting as confusion, uncontrolled eye movement, and involuntary muscle movement.

Both conditions are said to have negatively affected Harwell over the years and are thought to have contributed to him suffering from late-stage liver failure, his ultimate cause of death, according to USA Today.

What Causes Liver Failure?

Liver failure is when the liver shuts down and is unable to carry out important bodily functions. It is most often the result of long-term liver disease, which has many contributing factors, including genetics, infections, immunodeficiencies, and long-term alcohol abuse.

Alcohol abuse can lead to many health problems, including digestive issues, heart disease, weakening of the immune system, and liver diseases. Since 90% of all alcohol is processed through the liver, the organ is at the highest risk for cell degeneration and damage caused by the substance. This can result in fatty liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, ultimately leading to liver failure if left untreated.

Help For Alcohol Addiction

Though never going public with his addiction struggle, an inside source revealed that Harwell struggled with many unspecified addictions over the years, as reported to Billboard. Harwell’s long-term alcohol misuse was something he hinted at when he retired from Smash Mouth in 2022.

Due to his declining health and episodes of erratic and disturbing behavior, Harwell retired, telling fans: “I’ve tried so hard to power through my physical and mental health issues and to play in front of you one last time, but I just wasn’t able to.”

Unfortunately, Harwell’s passing is a solemn reminder that anyone can be affected by alcohol addiction, no matter their level of success. It’s important to understand that addiction is a disease that requires treatment, and getting help is the first step towards recovery.

If alcohol abuse is a recurring problem for you or someone you love, it may be time to contact a treatment provider. They can help answer your rehab-related questions and discuss available treatment options.

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Jessica Sherer

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  • Jessica Sherer earned her B.A. in English from Ashford University and has over eight years of copyediting experience in healthcare education. Dedicated to providing clear and useful information, she hopes her work will help to support those affected by addiction.

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