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The former lead singer of Smash Mouth, Steve Harwell, died on Sept. 4 at 56. Smash Mouth rose to fame in the late 1990s and early 200s with hits like “All-Star” and “Walkin’ on the Sun.” While the band remains active, Harwell was not working with the group at the time of his death. He had retired years earlier. So, why did Harwell leave Smash Mouth? He stepped back from music to deal with various physical and mental health issues. 

Why did Steve Harwell leave Smash Mouth? 

Steve Harwell was a founding member of Smash Mouth. The band formed in the early 1990s. By the mid-1990s, they were signed to Interscope Records. The band released its debut album,  Fush Yu Mang, in 1997. 

While the band hit it big in the late 1990s, it underwent various changes over the years. Members have cycled in and out, and Smash Mouth moved from record label to record label. Still, Harwell remained a constant until 2021. In 2021, Steve Harwell made the news when he appeared at a beer and wine festival in Bethel, New York. When the band took the stage to perform, Harwell seemed to be intoxicated. He was said to be acting erratically, slurring his words and threatening spectators. 

Drummer Randy Cooke (L), bassist Paul De Lisle (2nd from L), keyboard player Michael Klooster (center) and frontman Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth pose together at The Grove in 2016. The group performed during the Summer Concert Series
Smash Mouth | Tiffany Rose/WireImage

Harwell left the stage but later issued a statement announcing his retirement. Harwell said he was stepping away from music to focus on his health. In a statement issued directly to TMZ, the lead singer noted that performing with his bandmates had been an honor. Following his retirement, Smash Mouth replaced Harwell and has continued working steadily

In the years since his retirement, Harwell led an entirely private life. He rarely appeared in public and kept his social media accounts private. 

What caused Steve Harwell’s death? 

The cause of Steve Harwell’s death has been confirmed. Harwell died from liver failure, although he had suffered from many other physical ailments in recent years. Just one day before his death, Harwell’s manager told TMZ that the former lead singer had just days to live and had opted to enter hospice care at home. Before entering hospice, Harwell was being treated at a Boise, Idaho hospital. 

Steve Harwell performs on stage with 'Smash Mouth' at the Grek Theatre in 2014
Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth | Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

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According to several sources, Harwell had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and heart failure nearly a decade before he died of liver failure. He also suffered from Wernicke encephalopathy, a neurological condition associated with a thiamine deficiency. 

Liver failure causes thousands of deaths each year. According to the American Liver Foundation, over 50,000 people died from liver disease in 2020. Roughly 5.5 million people live with chronic liver conditions in the United States.