July 14, 2024

The week the music died

Old and young pop culture fans alike spent the first week of September mourning the deaths of two iconic musicians; Jimmy Buffett, the 76-year-old “Margaritaville” singer/songwriter, and Steve Harwell, the 56-year-old former lead singer of Smash Mouth.

According to a statement on Buffett’s website, “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs”. The cause of his death was revealed to be Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer that he had been battling for the past four years.

Smash Mouth performs at Hard Rock Cafe – Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia – 12th March 2013. Photo via WikiMediaCommons.

Buffett was known for promoting a good time and enjoying life through his music.

Some of his most well-known songs include “Margaritaville,” “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” which perfectly encapsulate Buffett’s love for the beach and the island lifestyle.

He eventually used the reputation he earned from his tropical rock tunes to create his own business empire, aptly called “Margaritaville,” which includes themed hotels, resorts, restaurants, cruises and a shop featuring Buffett-inspired apparel.

His wife, Jane, emphasized that Buffett lived life to the fullest and remained optimistic, happy and loving until the end.

On Sept. 4, 2023, –just three days after Buffett’s passing– Rolling Stone released a statement from Robert Hayes, Smash Mouth’s band manager, stating that Harwell had died at home in Idaho due to late-stage liver cancer. This was revealed shortly after an announcement that Harwell had gone into hospice care.

Harwell was a cofounder of the 1990s rock band Smash Mouth, which grew in popularity after the release of their second album “Astro Lounge.” “All Star” was a popular song on the aforementioned album, but did not reach its peak in popularity until it was featured in “Shrek,” which was released in 2001.

Harwell retired from music in 2021 after an onstage outburst at a concert in New York, which was later connected to his Wernicke’s encephalopathy diagnosis.

Most people knew Harwell as the lead singer in the “Shrek band,” but Harwell embraced the title.

Harwell died from final-stage liver failure likely related to his “100% full-throttle life” described by Hayes.

Buffett and Harwell had very different personalities, musical styles and fan bases. Nevertheless, they were both influential musicians, making the first week of September upsetting for a multitude of music fans.


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