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'Sesame Street' legend Caroll Spinney dies aged 85

The veteran puppeteer passed away after living with dystonia for some time, following his retirement last year.

In this file photo taken on October 09, 2014 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 in New York City. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Sesame Street veteran Caroll Spinney - known for playing both Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird - has sadly passed away aged 85.

The veteran puppeteer passed away after living with dystonia for some time, following his retirement last year at the age of 84.

In a statement, Sesame Street 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, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending."

Spinney played the two characters - including their voices - since the show first aired in 1969, and he previously spoke of the significance the programme had in his life.

He said: "Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn't feel like what I was doing was important. Big Bird helped me find my purpose."

Throughout his illustrious career on the show, Spinney - who was close friends with the late Muppets and Sesame Street creator Jim Henson - won two Grammys and six Emmy Awards, while he also received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 2006.

In a statement, the Henson family added: "Caroll's decades-long commitment to bettering the lives of children all around the world is his true legacy. That he could do this work so brilliantly, responsibly, and with such infectious love and joy, is his gift to us all."

In 1994, he was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2000, he was recognised with the Library of Congress' Living Legends prize.

In 2014, Spinney - who met his wife Debra on the set of Sesame Street in 1973 - also had his life and career documented in the film I Am Big Bird.