LONDON: Geoff Nicholls, keyboardist with seminal British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, died on Saturday aged 68 following a battle with lung cancer, guitarist Tony Iommi wrote on Facebook.
"So saddened to hear the loss of one of my dearest and closest friends Geoff Nicholls," wrote Iommi.
"He's been suffering for a while now with lung cancer and he lost his battle this morning.
"I will miss him dearly and he will live in my heart until we meet again. Rest In Peace my dear friend," he added.
Charismatic frontman Ozzy Osbourne called Nicholls "a great friend," adding in a Twitter post that he would be "greatly missed".
Nicholls was recruited by the band after Osborne was sacked in 1979 having played for five years with previous band Quartz.
He first appeared on 1980 LP "Heaven and Hell" and finally became an "official" member in 1985.
He held this title until Osbourne's return in 1996 and was permanently replaced by keyboardist Adam Wakeman in 2004.
Black Sabbath was instrumental in creating heavy metal in the early 1970s with dark and high-volume guitars coupled with a keen interest in the occult.
Osbourne went on to a successful career as a solo artist famous for sensational shows.