Steve Harwell  How Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’ Got a Second Wind From Memes

The Steve Harwell song's convoluted route to eternal status shows how social media and fan-made material have changed the music industry.

It was only a rock band's attempt to land a radio smash long before it became a soundtrack nugget and an online meme.

However, the lengthy road to immortality for "All-Star," a 1999 song by the California alternative band Smash Mouth, 

whose founding lead vocalist, Steve Harwell, died on Monday at the age of 56, is an example of how social media and fan-created material have altered the music industry.

The song was written while the band was working on their second album, "Astro Lounge," following the success of "Walkin' on the Sun" (1997). 

When the band sent a batch of songs to their record label, they were told, "You're not done yet." "We haven't heard a single yet, so keep working," the band's manager, Robert Hayes, told Rolling Stone in 2019.

Smash Mouth's guitarist and principal songwriter, Greg Camp, revealed that the song's lovable-loser premise ("I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed") came from fan correspondence. 

According to the website Songfacts, "about 85 to 90 percent of the mail was from these kids who were being bullied" for being Smash Mouth fans. "So we were like, 'We should write a song for the fans.'"

In 1999, "All Star" was rapidly featured on film soundtracks such as "Inspector Gadget" and "Mystery Men." 

 (The original music video included footage from "Mystery Men," a superhero parody starring Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo, among others.)

The song's fame, however, began with its inclusion in "Shrek," the 2001 animated hit starring Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, where it plays in the opening credits. According to the website Box Office Mojo, the picture grossed a total of $484 million worldwide.

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