Spinney originated the roles of Big Bird and Oscar in Sesame Street‘s 1969 premiere. He stayed with the program for five decades, until he retired in October of 2018. At the time of his retirement, Spinney released a statement, which in part read, “Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn’t feel like what I was doing was very important. Big Bird helped me find my purpose. Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling — and my wonderful wife! — and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever.”
For his life’s work, Spinney was the recipient of four Daytime Emmy awards, as well as the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Library of Congress’ Living Legend Award, two Grammy awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days… and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement. “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… With deepest admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to carry his memory – and his beloved characters – into the future. Our hearts go out to Caroll’s beloved wife, Debra, and all of his children and grandchildren.”
Scroll down to watch Sesame Street‘s 2018 tribute to Spinney.