Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch puppeteer Carroll Spinney dies at age 85

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Caroll Spinney "Oscar and Big Bird" attends SiriusXM's Town Hall with original cast members from Sesame Street commemorating the 45th anniversary of the celebrated series debut on public television moderated by Weekend TODAY co-anchor Erica Hill on October 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

HARTFORD, Conn. — 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.

“Before I came to ‘Sesame Street,’ I didn’t 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.

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