By Nick Romano
January 28, 2017 at 04:29 PM EST
  • Music

Geoff Nicholls, keyboardist for Black Sabbath, died Saturday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 68.

The band’s guitarist Tony Iommi made the announcement on Facebook. “I’m so saddened to hear the loss of one of my dearest and closest friends Geoff Nicholls,” he wrote. “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.”

Nicholls joined Black Sabbath after lead singer Ozzy Osbourne was ousted in 1979. “Geoff Nicholls was a great friend of mine for a long time,” Osbourne tweeted. “He will be greatly missed. I’m very saddened at the news.”

Black Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler also offered his condolences over social media: “Very sad to hear of old friend and Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls passing. RIP Geoff.”

Nicholls officially featured on nine studio albums with the band, beginning with the 1980 LP Heaven and Hell. He played the keyboard intermittently for several years until he was replaced by Adam Wakeman.

Prior to joining Black Sabbath, Nicholls played with the band Quartz, which also released a statement on the musician’s death.

“Everyone in the band, and associated with the band, are struggling to find the words to express their feelings and sadness regarding the passing of their dear friend Geoff Nicholls earlier this morning at home,” it begins. “Geoff had been unwell for a long time battling cancer and had under gone extensive radio and chemotherapy plus other trial treatment but all sadly to no avail in the end. In this darkest and lowest moment of time Geoff’s lyrics and music speak volumes to us and for us and through these his memory will live on forever. Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to Gloria and her family as they try come to terms with their loss.”

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