Steve Harwell in Memoriam

I began writing this article days before his hospice treatment was publicized. I thought about Shrek, and how much of a testament that soundtrack was. This obituary is not to talk about the life Smash Mouth and Steve had, rather to converse about the unjust stigmatization linked Harwell’s death; and yea— I like Shrek. 

90’s rock can’t be commemorated without mentioning Smash Mouth. Their debut album, Fush Yu Mang, held the post-rock aggressions that contemporary thrasher culture established, but the hard-hitting drum rolls froze up at the face of skat. Opening song, Flo, is an invitation to the overlapping tones that open the doors to skat. Walkin On The Sun, which won the no. 1 spot on US Billboards Rock, solidifies the band’s alternative and experimental identity. It can be considered a doozy, but this track’s groove and candid rhythm conveys the perfect late 90’s dream-fantasy. Smash Mouth’s commercial successes are traced to songwriter and bassist, Paul de Lisle, who in turn wrote yep— you guessed it— All Star. There’s only so much more I could say before I run out of topic material, allow me to point to the bigger picture regarding Steve Harwell’s unfortunate passing.

Before this story I had no idea Steve Harwell had lost a baby son to leukemia. I had no idea he struggled with alcoholism. I didn’t know he made Nazi-looking salutes during a concert in New York. See that jump? That’s how muddy it gets in this pond called life. I hate to see how the discourse surrounding these kinds of moments trickle down to empty facets of partial truths. It could be said Harwell was a hurt individual, someone who couldn’t recuperate from the drama of a passing son. I attached myself to this story because of the disliking reactions that online discourse produced, and to reiterate— Shrek is the s***!

Fame and fortune don’t equate to competent emotional support, and though Harwell had the former, he shouldn’t be scrutinized for his past. Addiction is nothing to joke about. There is a real, measurable imbalance within neurological networks that dictate our bodily function, and humanity has been struggling with it for centuries. Harwell’s Wernicke encephalopathy could be traced to his alcoholism, but it’s an insufferable condition that no-one deserves. Harwell is a victim of his own doing, but it’s never a good time to infer that a life means less when it’s stigmatized. 

Reach is ambiguous, and it doesn’t hold accountability for where or whose ears it resides in. No one works relentlessly on a cool outfit, to only be remembered by how their shoelace was untied. I don’t fret at the amount of Shrek stories that arose from this event (I’m guilty of it too) but I’d like to conclude by explaining how important it is to be cautious with stories like this. I’ve never been in the same room as any of the stars from the movie, but just like in the song, they shot and broke the mold. Shrek is a cultural flashpoint, and with a heavy weight, I wave goodbye to Steve and the years that did stop coming.