Sad news to report as former Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls has passed away at the age of 68 earlier this morning (Jan. 28) after a battle with lung cancer.

Sabbath's Tony Iommi took to Facebook (post below) to express his thoughts on this terrible loss, stating, "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."

Bassist Geezer Butler stated, "Very sad to hear of old friend and Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls passing. RIP Geoff."

Nicholls first got his start with NWOBHM outfit Quartz, playing guitar and keyboards on their eponymous 1977 debut. From there, he was recruited as a second guitarist alongside Tony Iommi as the mainman weighed the option of continuing under a name other than Black Sabbath. Switching to bass briefly before Butler returned and they assumed work under the Sabbath moniker again, Nicholls settled into his role as the band's keyboardist once Butler was back.

He would have an on and off again status as a permanent member of the band, though he never received the full treatment other full time members enjoyed, save for the Seventh Star tour. Nicholls would often perform from the side of the stage or behind it, occasionally doubling as a rhythm guitarist as well while Iommi played his solos.

In total, Nicholls played on nine Black Sabbath albums, starting with Heaven and Hell in 1980 and on everything through 1995's Forbidden. He has even been the subject of debate regarding songwriting credits on the song "Heaven and Hell," claiming the simple yet iconic bass line was of his creation as Butler was not in the group while the song took shape.

The keyboardist rejoined Quartz when the band reunited in 2011 and was last featured on 2016's Fear No Evil, contributing guitar, keyboards and vocals to the album. Nicholls was also a contributor to Iommi and former Sabbath singer Tony Martin's solo records.

R.I.P. Geoff Nicholls and our condolences to the Nicholls family, fellow musicians and friends of Geoff.

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