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Soundtrack Review

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I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


Composer: Joshua Johnson
Label: Varèse Sarabande
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 31 July 2015

Varèse Sarabande release Joshua Johnson's beautifully intricate and moving score to I am Big Bird, This heartwarming documentary chronicles the life of Caroll Spinney, the man who has been Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969. For over 4 decades, Caroll's characters have been cherished by generations of children. At 81 years old, the tenacious and enthusiastic performer has no intention of slowing down...

Joshua Johnson's score for I am Big Bird represents a moving collection of themes that helped greatly to ensure that those that saw the movie, and had already grown up loving Big Bird, would fall in love with Caroll Spinney and his wife Debra.

Johnson's approach with the music saw him putting an emphasis on making themes for both Spinney and Big Bird. Spinney's theme is the focus of 'Prelude/Main Titles', whilst Big Bird's theme can be heard in 'Rise To Fame' and 'Big Bird Peaks'). Johnson, has cleverly made aspects of the themes interchangeable, which is intentional; Spinney and Big Bird are, essentially, the same. 'Big Bird Peaks' actually reminded me ever so slightly of John Barry's beautiful score for Dances with Wolves.

The album contains 16 tracks (44 min, 36 sec) and not one second of it is wasted. There's a tendency with scores for documentaries to either over dramatise aspects of the music or sit quietly in the background doing very little. What Johnson delivers is nothing short of a masterclass in how to build an emotional bond between an audience and the film's subject matter.

Possibly this score's most beautiful track is 'Mr. Hooper', which in the movie is used to deal with the unexpected death of Will Lee who had played Mr. Hooper from the very first episode of Sesame Street. It's an emotionally touching track, but while a standout moment, I think it's fair to say that the entire score is a loving, and rather moving tribute to the life of a stranger; a stranger that almost everyone has grown up knowing and loving due to his wonderful portrayal of both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.


Darren Rea

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