The man who brought innocence and wonder to Big Bird and provided the unforgettable attitude of Oscar the Grouch for nearly 50 years has died.
Caroll Spinney joined Jim Henson as a Muppeteer in the mid-1960s, eventually finding his way to Sesame Street in 1969. Spinney performed and voiced two of the series’ most famous residents, albeit on very different ends of the personality spectrum.
Last year, following the filming of performances intended for Sesame Street‘s 50th birthday celebration this year, Spinney retired, turning over the roles of Big Bird and Oscar to Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson, respectively — puppeteers who Spinney mentored for more than two decades.
“Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind, and nurtured my soul,” Spinney said at the time. “And I plan to be an ambassador for Sesame Workshop for many years to come. After all, we’re a family! But now, it’s time for two performers that I have worked with and respected — and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch — [to] take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life.”
News of Spinney’s death comes just a month after the Empire State Building was lit in green and yellow in honor of Sesame Street, on a day that the Mayor’s Office of New York City declared “Caroll Spinney Day.”
According to a statement issued by Sesame Workshop, Spinney had been living with a muscle disorder known as dystonia for some time. He died at his home in Connecticut.
Spinney was 85.
Photos: Sesame Workshop