After playing with some of the jazz greats during his teens (Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Kenny Clarke, etc.), he left the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris with first place in harmony, fugue and counterpoint, and in 1966, entered the world of variety performance. Here he wrote and arranged for Julien Clerc, Serge Lama, Claude François, Mink Deville, Joan Baez, Michel Sardou, Alain Souchon, Sylvie Vartan, Jairo, Mort Shuman and Gilbert Bécaud.
In the cinema he began to work as musical ghostwriter for Michel Magne. He sold the rights for his 1976 electronic pop album to the director, Alejandro Jodorowsky, so that the music could be used as the sound track for the film, Tusk.
He was responsible for the music on Jean de Florette and Manon des sources, by Claude Berri, and on Cyrano de Bergerac, by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. Cyrano de Bergerac brought him a César and a Victoire de la Musique award in 1991.
Jean-Claude Petit has also composed, produced and played on jazz rock alums, such as Babel, with the guitarist, Philip Catherine, and The Best of all Possible Worlds, with Celmar Engel.
In June 2013 he was elected president of the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music. In 2014 he penned his first opera, Colomba, which was adapted from the novel by Prosper Mérimée and performed at the Opéra Municipal de Marseille. In 2015 he worked on the song, Le Secret Perdu, which is the first single from the 10th album by Pascal Obispo.