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Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who gave life to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, dies at age 85

  • Spinney worked on the beloved show for more than 50 years
  •  He died Sunday at the age of 85 at his home in Connecticut on Sunday
  • The puppeteer had been living for some time with dystonia 
  • He announced his retirement in 2018

Carroll Spinney, who gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on ‘Sesame Street,’ died Sunday at the age of 85 at his home in Connecticut, according to the Sesame Workshop.

The Sesame Workshop said in a statement that the legendary puppeteer lived for some time with dystonia, which causes involuntary muscle contractions.

Spinney voiced and operated the two major Muppets from their inception in 1969 when he was 36, and performed them almost exclusively into his 80s on the PBS kids television show that later moved to HBO.

Spinney voiced and operated the two major Muppets from their inception in 1969, including Oscar the Grouch (both pictured)

Spinney voiced and operated the two major Muppets from their inception in 1969, including Oscar the Grouch (both pictured)

Spinney and Oscar the Grouch during the filming of an episode of Sesame Street at Reeves TeleTape Studio in March 1970 in New York City

Spinney and Oscar the Grouch during the filming of an episode of Sesame Street at Reeves TeleTape Studio in March 1970 in New York City

Big Bird puppeteer attends Sesame Street 50th anniversary celebration

‘Before I came to Sesame Street, I did not feel like what I was doing was very important,’ Spinney said when he announced his retirement in 2018. ‘Big Bird helped me find my purpose.’

Through his two characters, Spinney gained huge fame that brought international tours, books, record albums, movie roles, and visits to the White House.

‘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,’ the Sesame Workshop said.

Spinney and Big Bird at The Empire State Building last month in New York

Spinney and Big Bird at The Empire State Building last month in New York

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