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Geoff Nicholls, Black Sabbath's keyboardist for 25 years between 1979 and 2004, died today from lung cancer at the age of 68.
Nicholls' passing was first confirmed by Black Sabbath's founding guitarist Tony Iommi via social media:
I'm so saddened to hear the loss of one of my dearest and closest friends Geoff Nicholls. He's been suffering for a while now with lung cancer and he lost his battle this morning. Geoff and I have always been very close and he has been a real true friend to me and supported me all the way for nearly 40 years. I will miss him dearly and he will live in my heart until we meet again.
Rest In Peace my dear friend.
Ozzy Osbourne also posted a remembrance of his longtime collaborator:
Geoff Nicholls was a great friend of mine for a long time. He will be greatly missed. I'm very saddened at the news.
As did bassist Geezer Butler:
Very sad to hear of old friend and Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls passing. RIP Geoff.
Nicholls first collaborated with Iommi during his time in Quartz, which shared with Sabbath a hometown (Birmingham) and whose self-titled debut record Iommi produced around 1977. Nicholls would join Sabbath, at the behest of Iommi, after Ronnie James Dio had replaced Osbourne as lead singer (at the suggestion of Osbourne's future wife, Sharon).
After leaving Sabbath following the band's choice of Adam Wakeman as keyboardist in 2004, Nicholls joined another former Sabbath singer, Tony Martin, in his band Headless Cross in recent years.