Smash Mouth Frontman Steve Harwell's Most Controversial Moments

Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell has died at the age of 56. "Steve Harwell passed away this morning, September 4, 2023, at his home in Boise, Idaho. He was surrounded by family and friends and passed peacefully and comfortably," band manager Robert Hayes announced in a statement, per Billboard. In his tribute, Hayes described Harwell as a larger-than-life personality who fought hard for a successful career. According to multiple outlets, the singer died from liver failure.

After Harwell came together with drummer Kevin Coleman, guitarist Greg Camp, and bassist Paul De Lisle to form Smash Mouth in 1994, the band went on to launch a successful career, releasing their biggest hit, "All-Star" only five years later. In addition, Smash Mouth's discography also includes tracks like "Walkin' on the Sun," "Can't Get Enough of You Baby," and "Why Can't We Be Friends." In the band's tribute, Smash Mouth praised Harwell for undeniable charisma. "Steve lived a 100% full-throttle life. Burning brightly across the universe before burning out," they added.

But while Harwell might have enjoyed a relatively successful career, the Smash Mouth singer also had his fair share of controversies.

He cursed out fans at a 2021 concert

Steve Harwell raised eyebrows in 2021 after causing a scene at a New York show where his band performed. As reported by the New York Post, while on stage, Harwell, who appeared drunk, was seen hurling insults at the crowd as he struggled to maintain his composure. "I'll f****** kill your whole family, I swear to God," Harwell was seen screaming in one video. Harwell reportedly also told another concertgoer he would never leave home if he was better at masturbating. However, the most disturbing of Harwell's antics was an apparent Nazi salute that sparked outrage and backlash from fans on social media. Per The Los Angeles Times, a member of the audience who captured the disturbing moments on camera described the event as "the most chaotic show I've ever seen in my entire life."

Though Harwell never offered an apology, the incident allegedly forced him into retiring from the band. "Steve has been dealing with long-term medical issues over the last eight years, and during his last performance at the Big Sip stage, he suffered numerous symptoms directly linked with his current medical situation," a representative for the singer said. "As of today, Steve will be retiring from Smash Mouth to focus on his physical and mental health."

Steve Harwell caused a stir at a 2015 food festival

In another one of his controversial moments, Steve Harwell lost his temper while performing at a food festival back in 2015. Per The Coloradoan, Harwell was onstage at the Taste of Fort Collins food festival in Colorado when the audience started throwing pieces of bread at him. But while artists are no strangers to getting booed or attacked on stage, Harwell did not take it well and soon flipped out. In a video shared on YouTube, Harwell was captured swearing at the crowd as he threatened to find and beat up the offenders. "I'm gonna walk off the stage, and guess what, you paid for it, motherf*****," he added in his rant. The "All Star" singer eventually walked off the stage after attempts to pacify him.

Unsurprisingly, this unpleasant moment stayed with fans through the years. Following Harwell's death, a fan of the singer recounted his experience at the concert, writing on Twitter: "RIP Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth. I will never forget seeing them in concert in Fort Collins back in 2015. What made it so memorable was Harwell going on a tirade at audience members who were throwing slices of bread on stage."

Steve Harwell's fiancee once filed a restraining order against him

In September 2019, news broke that Esther Campbell, a woman identified as Steve Harwell's ex-fiancee, had filed for a restraining order against the singer. In the documents obtained by TMZ, Campbell accused Harwell of starting repair works at her home and threatening to leave her with a $7000 debt. She also touched on the star's drinking problems, requesting that a judge order him to attend rehab. Campbell was granted a temporary order at the time of her request.

In a separate 2020 filing, Campbell reiterated Harwell's substance abuse, noting that despite a short stint in rehab, the singer fell off the wagon again. She further accused him of abusive behaviors, revealing that he damaged her phone and intentionally left her car windows open in the rain. Campbell also alleged that the singer suffered from Bipolar disorder but refused to take his medications, though that diagnosis has never been publicly confirmed.

He mocked COVID-19 amid the pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Smash Mouth performed as one of the headliners at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip Music Festival. Despite social distancing guidelines, a large crowd gathered at the event, most without protective face masks. To make matters worse, a clip shared on social media showed Steve Harwell making fun of the pandemic. "We're all here together tonight. And we're being human once again. F*** that COVID s***," he said. 

Expectedly, Harwell's comment and the crowd's disregard for social distancing guidelines sparked outrage among social media users. "Imagine risking exposure to Covid for this... and voluntary exposure to Smash Mouth at the same time. Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me. I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed," one fan shared. "So Smash Mouth fans are straight up willing to risk death to hear All-Star live," another user tweeted.

Following the backlash, the band's manager told Billboard, "The promoter did a fantastic job with their COVID protocol. They had a very strict social distancing and mask policy in place for all workers."