Even if you don’t recognize the name Caroll Spinney straight away, you know who this Sesame Street veteran is because you know Big Bird. The legendary puppeteer who voiced Big Bird as well as Oscar the Grouch for more than 50 years passed away at age 85 while at home in Connecticut over the weekend. It’s the end of an era with Spinney’s passing and the loss of an iconic voice and talent, one many of us grew up knowing thanks to his presence on Sesame Street.
Spinney’s death was announced via Sesame Workshop on Sunday afternoon. In their statement, Sesame Workshop notes Spinney was at home in Connecticut when he died after living with Dystonia for an extended period. The statement goes on to say,
“Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending. His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.”
Sesame Street also tweeted out a photo of Spinney standing alongside his Big Bird character as part of the company’s tribute to him.
Caroll Spinney, the legendary puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died today, December 8th 2019, at age 85 at his home in Connecticut, after living with Dystonia for some time. https://t.co/q7FVDul5WT pic.twitter.com/CvWBD0NQyp
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) December 8, 2019
As Variety notes, Spinney joined Sesame Street in 1969. During his time on the children’s television series, he won five Daytime Emmy awards beginning in 1974 with individual achievement in children’s programming and his most recent arriving in 2007 for performer in a children’s series as Oscar the Grouch. Spinney’s work on Sesame Street playing Big Bird and his friendship with Jim Henson was the subject of the 2014 documentary, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.