Black Sabbath ex-keyboardist Geoff Nicholls dies

Sunday, January 29, 2017

British metal musician Geoff Nicholls, keyboardist for Black Sabbath from 1979 to 2004, died yesterday after battling lung cancer. He was 68.

Prior to Sabbath, Nicholls performed with New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Quartz. Quartz's 1977 début album was produced by Tony Iommi, founding guitarist of Black Sabbath.

Iommi broke the news of Nicholls's death to fans, writing he was "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."

Hailing from Birmingham, England, the origin of both bands Quartz and Sabbath, Nicholls appeared on numerous Sabbath albums starting with Heaven and Hell in 1980. Nicholls was caught up in turmoil within the band, with Heaven and Hell released shortly after the firing of frontman Ozzy Osbourne and his replacement with Ronnie James Dio, who died in 2010.

Nicholls was not always considered a full band member; despite achieving this status in 1986 when Seventh Star was released, he often played offstage or from the side during concerts. In 1992 he was demoted when Sabbath reunited with Dio to release Dehumanizer and he was again demoted when Osbourne rejoined in 1997. In 2004 Osbourne's solo band keyboardist, Adam Wakeman, joined the band leaving Nicholls without a role.

Nicholls thereafter joined another ex-Sabbath musician, Tony Martin, and performed in Martin's band Headless Cross. Headless Cross was named after a 1989 Black Sabbath album. "Saddened to hear of the passing of Geoff Nicholls", Martin said, adding "Safe journey, mate."

Osbourne said Nicholls "was a great friend of mine for a long time. He will be greatly missed. I'm very saddened at the news." Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler said he was "Very sad to hear of old friend and Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls passing."

Nicholls further appears on two Tony Martin solo albums, and played in 1960s band Johnny Neal and the Starliners. He played occasional rhythm guitar at Black Sabbath live shows.