Geoff Nicholls (far left) with Black Sabbath in 1985 (Photo: Getty Images/WireImage, Chris Walter)

As reported by Rolling Stone, Black Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls has died following a battle with lung cancer. He was 68.

Tony Iommi shared the news on Facebook, writing, “I’m so saddened to hear the lost of one of my dearest and closest friends.” Iommi said that Nicholls had “been suffering for a while now,” and that the two of them had “always been very close.” The post ends with Iommi saying, “I will miss him dearly and he will live in my heart until we meet again.”

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Though Nicholls played with Black Sabbath for 25 years, he was merely a backup member for a while. When Ozzy Osbourne was kicked out of the band in 1979, Nicholls was recruited to play guitar (and later bass) alongside new vocalist Ronnie James Dio. He first appeared with the band on 1980’s Heaven And Hell, with Rolling Stone saying he’s credited with the “menacing bassline” for the album’s title track.

By 1985, Nicholls had settled into his role as keyboardist and was named an “official” Black Sabbath member, but he left the group in 2004 when he was replaced by a member of Osbourne’s solo band. Until his death, Nicholls also played keyboards for former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin.

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