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Caroll Spinney, Big Bird voice for 50 years found dead

By, Destiny Garner

Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local

According to the New York Times, Caroll Spinney passed Sunday at his home in Woodstock, Conn. at the age of 85. The New York Times states that he has been living with dystonia, which causes involuntary muscle contractions. Caroll Spinney was born in Waltham, Mass on December 26th 1933. He attended The Art Institute of Boston, but later dropped out to join the airforce. 

Mr. Spinney was the voice for both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Creating the memorable shy and sweet personality of Big bird for 50 years, Big bird was more than just a character. Big Bird consentaly set themes throughout the show, teaching children valuable life lessons and control over emotions. Some of his most important themes were, “ its okay to feel sad sometimes”, “it’s good to speak up”, and “its okay to make mistakes”. Throughout his time on Sesame Street, he showed children and adults that its okay to have emotions and to be shy at times. While Big Bird was mostly known for his shy, but friendly personality, Osar was known for being a rude grouch. Mr. Spiney somehow managed to channel both different but loveable characters. Presenting various emotions and themes for each character throughout his career.

Big Bird has appeared at many live concerts around the world and even performed at the White House multiple times. In 1979 he appeared in the Muppets movie. Then again in 1984 in The Muppets take Manhattan. In 2015, Mr. Spinney stopped doing the puppeteering for Big Bird but continued the voices for both Big Bird and Oscar. In 2018, he retired as the voice for the characters. During his retirement interview, he stated “ Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life”. 

Some of his lifetime achievements includes the following, Four daytime Emmys, A lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Television. He also received two Grammys from the Recording Academy, and a Living Legend award from the Library of Congress. He received recognition letters from President Barack Obama. In 2003 also published a memoir with J. Milligan titled, “ The Wisdom of Big Bird ( and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch) : Lessons From a Life in Feathers”. In 2014 he was apart of the “ I am Big Bird: Caroll Spinney Story”by Dave LaMattins and Chad N. Walker.

Although the character Big Bird was well known, Caroll Spinney was not. In 2010, he told Yankee Magazine, “ I’ve gotten used to the fact that Big Bird is super famous and I’m a nobody”. 

Mr. Spinney was known to share some characteristics of Big Bird, both being shy and spoke gentle. He leaves behind his wife, Debra Jean Gilroy, three children and several grandchildren. 

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