After painfully battling dystonia for years, puppeteer Caroll Spinney, the iconic voice behind Sesame Street's Big Bird, passed away at the age of 85 years at his Connecticut home.
The actor, who left the show last year, was suffering from dystonia, a movement disorder in which a person's muscles contract uncontrollably. Spinney lent his voice to the giant yellow-colored Big Bird, measuring eight meters with a huge beak, for five decades.
Spinney's legacy will be unending
A statement issued by the producers of the show, Sesame Workshop, said, "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. His legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending"
"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," read the statement.
The life and times of the icon
The Grammy award winner for Best Children's recording was part of the hit educational series since it started in 1969. At the time of his retirement, he said, "My Big Bird alter ego had opened my mind and nurtured my soul."
It was love at first sight with puppetry for Spinney who was smitten by the act after watching Three Little Kittens at the tender age of five. He used the art to raise funds for his college tuition.
Before joining the cast of Sesame Street, Spinney had served in the US Air Force. After leaving the air force, the actor performed as a professional puppeteer in Las Vegas and Boston for more than a decade.
Big Bird was very important for Spinney
In one of his previous interviews, the Emmy Award winner stated that Big Bird helped him find the purpose in life as he felt he was doing something important. Spinney, who met his wife Debra of the sets of the show in 1973, was bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy award in 2006.
The US library of Congress had named Spinney as a Living Legend in 2000. His memorable life was presented in a documentary titled 'I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story', released in 2014. The legend is also immortalised as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.