Music: Compassion, Humanity, and the Steve Harwell Situation

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve seen the video of Steve Harwell fronting Smash Mouth at a performance, where he is very wasted. He curses and threatens the fans, says horrible things, can’t perform, and even threw in a Nazi salute.

For those who are not in the know, you must see this video before you continue reading.

There are a variety of reactions to this event, and I wanted to share my reaction, since I have yet to see anyone else express anything similar to my thoughts on the topic.

Both fans and non-fans have been having a variety of reactions to this incident.

Some say that he’s just an asshole. This can be supported by the fact that he showed up to perform at the Sturgess motorcycle rally, which was a super-spreader event. He was maskless and yelled, “Fuck this COVID shit!” That’s highly irresponsible.

Others have suggested that he’s a “Has-Been.”

And still others are suggesting that he’s a hyper-drunk who should go away.

If I had to sum it up, the responses are a combination of disappointment, anger, frustration, and judgment.

I should preface my thoughts and give context by noting that I am not a Smash Mouth fan. I can appreciate their work, their hits, their presence in pop culture, and even their presence in modern-day online meme culture. The meme reviews are unironically dank, based, poggers, and soyfaced.

As the kids would say, of course.

What so many didn’t recognize is that, in 2001, Harwell’s six-month-old son died from Leukemia. I have to be really clear: This is NOT an excuse. However, I do think it is an explanation.

I can’t even pretend to understand what this might feel like.

And it’s one thing when Eric Clapton’s son died, due to asshole negligence. It didn’t really change Clapton all that much, and he continues his assholery to this very day. He is beyond redemption, and really uninterested in such things.

But with Harwell, it’s different. He’s 3 years younger than me, so he’s not totally unredeemable. His child DID NOT die due to neglect. I suspect that he might have had some alcohol problems before his son’s death, and that death served to exacerbate the situation.

He could also have mental health issues, but I cannot say for certain. My guess would be Major Depressive Disorder, but I won’t pathologize him. Most musicians and artists have some type of mental or emotional issues. This doesn’t justify anything, but can explain things.

Plus, while Clapton plays the Blues or his asshole hate anthem with fellow chud Van Morrison, Harwell has to be that bubbly, happy 90s Shrek guy. That’s the LAST thing you want to do when dealing with major life issues.

Harwell’s behavior at Sturgess, as well as his very participation, along with his harsh words and threats to fans, and the Nazi salute, paint the picture of a man who does not love himself. He does not even LIKE himself. People who hate themselves will often times extend that hatred to others.

Harwell is in a very bad place, and while that is unfortunate for him, the misfortune extends WAY beyond him.

There are bandmates, managers, touring personnel, and so on down the line. This amounts to HUNDREDS of people suffering a major financial impact because of Harwell’s unchecked issues.

I don’t think anyone in these camps is laughing. If anything, they might be angry, disappointed, or even afraid for their own futures.

The laughing, the hatred, and the judgment that comes from these people shows me that our country is severely lacking when it comes to things like sympathy, empathy, and even basic Humanity.

People laugh and point when someone falls, instead of trying to help them up.

People LOVE to see others suffer and sink into a pit. It helps them to feel better about their own shit lives.

I don’t like the idea of calling someone a “Has-Been.” They had their time in the sun, just like many other performers, and then that time passes and the world moves on after logging them into the annals of history.

Personally, I’d rather be a Has-Been, than a Never-Was. As my life stands, I am a Never-Was, and there is nothing that I can do about that, ever. This is something that is out of our control, so why attack someone for it?

It’s an ugly situation. When an ugly situation arises, it is NOT productive to address a suffering person by calling them names, laughing at them, or being judgmental.

Apparently, the world has yet to move past the second grade playground. Really, grown adults should know better.

And here I am, an Autistic man who is frozen in time at around age 16, who has to be the one to tell the world to grow up!

There will be lots and lots of people capitalizing off of this. I won’t be one of them, mostly because I’m simply not that popular. I won’t even include my usual PayPal link at the end.

I am willing to bet that most people who make videos about this are going to be laughing, or they will have some type of judgment to pass on Harwell.

As for me, I hope that he can get the help that he needs. Specifically, he needs to address the loss of his son. If he can do that, then he might be able to beat the booze, and rise above anything else that might be holding him down.

Depression, personal tragedy, and unaddressed broken feelings are a perfect mix to take down anyone and everyone. Harwell has expressed disappointment in himself. That’s a decent start.

Anything I wrote about depression or alcohol dependency is NOT an attempt to pathologize him. I am NOT a therapist or psychiatrist. That said, as a human being, my educated guess is that losing a baby to Leukemia can mess up someone’s mind.

If someone has depression or chemical dependency issues, then they can be exacerbated by this. If a person DID NOT have these issues before a tragedy like this, then they can likely develop them after the tragedy.

Something is going on with Mr. Harwell, and it is my hope that he can get the help that he needs, and that he can find the strength to work through the darkness that therapy will present to him.

We cannot run from ourselves. And when we hurt ourselves, we also hurt everyone else around us.

If you ever see someone going through something like this, my hope is that you do not point and laugh, or judge, or tell them they “should have x.” Instead, extend a hand and help them up. Dust them off and lend a listening ear.

You don’t even have to have answers to anything they say.

Sometimes just listening is enough.

Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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