Tom Parker: Musician who found global fame with The Wanted

Singer Tom Parker, who has died of a brain tumor aged 33, might not have made it past the audition phase when he tried for a place on The X Factorbut he had the last laugh after going on to top the charts as a member of The Wanted.

Beating 1,000 other hopefuls, Parker became part of the boyband in 2009 after Jayne Collins, manager of girlband The Saturdays, set about forming one. Parker described himself as the “cheeky one” of the group, who also included singers Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Nathan Sykes and Jay McGuiness. As the oldest and seemingly most confident one, he was seen as their leader.

With their catchy pop tunes and chiselled good looks, the band went on to sell more than 600,000 albums and 2 million singles. In 2010, their self-titled first LP included the No 1 single “All Time Low”, which stayed in the charts for 31 weeks.

“Glad You Came” (2011), from the band’s second album, battle groundalso hit the top and was their first hit in the US, reaching No 3. It gained even wider recognition after being it was performed on American TV series glee.

This sudden fame led The Wanted to be asked to record the official Comic Relief charity single “Gold Forever” in 2011, which peaked at No 3. Two years later, they were named Best Group in the Virgin Media Music Awards.

The boyband even had their own American reality television series, The Wanted Life, on E! in 2013, following them as they recorded their third album, word-of-mouthand prepared for a world tour.

One episode featured the group meeting Michelle Obama – said to be a fan – when the first lady and president Barack Obama invited them to perform in the White House garden for the annual Easter Egg Roll. She left them with the words: “Stay out of trouble – I’m watching!”

But the band never entirely held on to the whiter-than-white persona that is part of the mix when “manufactured” acts are moulded.

In the same year, they were accused of throwing champagne out of a London hotel window and soaking poet Todd Swift, who called the police. No action was brought because there was no proof of who committed the act.

“Our image initially was to be clean-cut, but how can you control five lads who just want to party and have a wonderful time?” Parker later told the American trade magazine Billboard. “So we kind of just rolled with the party/bad boy image. However, none of us are really bad boys. We’re all geeks at heart.”

Parker, second right, with The Wanted in 2011


But in 2014, after three studio albums and a string of Top 10 hits in the UK, The Wanted announced a hiatus. Their final single, “Glow in the Dark”, released that year, only just scraped into the Top 200.

Looking to continue his singing career, Parker recorded singles as a solo artist and, with former XFactor contestant Ollie Marland, as half of the duo Lost + Found, but he never rediscovered chart success.

Instead, he took his wit and warm personality to reality TV shows. In a 2015 edition of Celebrity Masterchefhis tarragon sauce was a winner with the judges, but he added drama to the mix by putting his hand in a blender and ending up in hospital.

For the celeb winter sports challenge The JumpA year later, Parker stepped in to replace Tina Hobley, who dislocated an elbow while training for the ski jump, and finished a respectable third.

More satisfyingly as a performer, he starred as Danny Zuko on a 2017 British stage tour of Grease: The Musicaladding some deft dance moves and hip-swivelling to his vocal skills.

Parker was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2020, a year before The Wanted reunited to record a new single, “Rule the World” – which failed to chart – and release a greatest hits album, Most Wantedwhile announcing plans for a tour.

Parker was seen as the leader of the group


First, his fellow band members joined him at the Royal Albert Hall in September 2021 for a charity event he organised, Inside My Head – The Concert, in aid of Stand Up to Cancer and the National Brain Appeal. Guest stars included Ed Sheeran and McFly.

When the eagerly anticipated limited-date tour went ahead in March 2022, Parker was in a Spanish clinic receiving treatment for cancer, so missed the first two gigs, with the group going on as a four-piece. He then joined them, sitting on a “throne” for the performance of “Glad You Came” each night.

Thomas Anthony Parker was born in Bolton, Lancashire, to Noreen (née Roche) and Nigel Parker.

His musical influences were Oasis and Stereophonics, and he learned to play the guitar at 16, shortly afterwards auditioning for The X Factor. Although he began studying geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, he left after a year to join a Take That tribute band, in the role of Mark Owen.

The Wanted’s other singles included “Heart Vacancy” (2010), “Lightning” (2011), “Chasing the Sun” (2012), “I Found You” (2012) and “Walks Like Rihanna” (2013), which, although very popular, all failed to hit the very top of the charts.

After the group disbanded, Parker became a DJ and music producer, and launched his brief solo career with the single “Undiscovered” (2015).

He told a House of Commons all-party parliamentary group on brain tumors in December 2021: “I’m staggered they can find a cure for Covid within a year, but for decades on end they haven’t found better treatments, let alone a cure, for brain tumours.”

his memory, Hopewill be published this summer.

In 2018, Parker married actor Kelsey Hardwick. She survives him, along with their daughter, Aurelia, and son, Bodhi, and his parents of him.

Tom Parker, singer, born 4 August 1988, died 30 March 2022

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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