The Dark Inspiration Behind Smash Mouth's Walkin' On The Sun

Smash Mouth was responsible for some of the best earworms from the late '90s and early '00s — the single "All Star," from their sophomore album "Astro Lounge," was released in 1999 and catapulted the California alt-rock band to fame. Before we were greeted with that song's lyrics, "Somebody once told me/The world is gonna roll me/I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed," there was another song that picked up steam on the airwaves — "Walkin' on the Sun" from their debut album, "Fush Yu Mang."

The song itself is deceptively upbeat and cheery, and it's really hard to fathom that it sprang forth from one of the darkest times in American history — the 1992 Los Angeles riots that were taking place south of where Greg Camp, Smash Mouth guitarist and songwriter, was living at the time (via Los Angeles Times). 

"There was a lot of racial tension everywhere because of the riots," he said. "I looked around and said, 'Why does it have to be like this? It's time to write a protest — a '90s let's-all-get-along type of song.' And so I kind of wrote it while I was riding my bike."

Cheerful song with a tragic inspiration

In an interview with Songfacts, Camp explained that he had actually written the song a few years prior to Smash Mouth's formation. The band he was in at the time, however, thought it wasn't a good fit, so the demo he made lounged around on a cassette for a few years until Smash Mouth's drummer, Kevin Coleman, got ahold of it and wanted to see if it would work. Of course, it did.

After the band signed with Interscope Records with a fully-formed album, company executives pushed to get "Walkin' on the Sun" on the airwaves — and it really took off. 

"It was just about all the things that were going on around me as a young person," Camp explained. "And I'm, like, God, what is going on? I don't understand why this is happening. It's like we might as well be walking around a planet on fire. And that's how it came about."