Vannier is regarded as an important musician in his native country; music critic Andy Votel noted his Eastern music influences and named him a pop-culture icon of 1970s France, alongside Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.
Vannier was born during a bomb scare in Courbevoie, Hauts-de-Seine. Self-taught, he began playing the piano at age 18, later arranging for Michel Magne and Alice Dona, his first notions of orchestration taken from the books of the "Que sais-je ?" collection.
Jean-Claude collaborated on several film soundtracks including: "Les guichets du Louvre" by Michel Mitrani, "La horse" by Pierre Granier Deferre, "Paris nous appartient" by Robert Benayoun, "Slogan" by Pierre Grimblat, "Projection privée" by François Leterrier, "L'amour propre" by Martin Veyron, "La nuit tous les chats sont gris" by Gérard Zingg, and "Comédie d'été" by Daniel Vigne.
Besides his own concerts and diverse musical entertainments, Jean-Claude staged numerous shows for artists such as Véronique Sanson’s show with the Prague Symphonic Orchestra at Paris’ Châtelet Theatre, Jane Birkin at the Olympia, “Children's Opera" (for which he also composed the music) and for the Festival of Avignon.
Jean-Claude Vannier has written and recorded six solo albums. Each release has been played live, at venues such as the Campagne Première Theatre, the Ranelagh Theatre, the Théâtre de la Ville, the Dejazet Theatre, the Trottoirs de Buenos Aires, the Auditorium des Halles, and the Théâtre des Abbesses.
“L’enfant assassin des mouches” is a concept album by Vannier that was released by Night & Day in 2003. This instrumental album, which inspired Serge Gainsbourg to write the well known cruel tale, was originally recorded in 1973. Finders Keepers, a UK record label, released it in 2005 with outstanding quotes from Jarvis Cocker, Jim O’Rourke, David Holmes, Tim Gane, Andy Votel International release in 2006 by Finders Keepers. “Because Music” decided to republish the album in October 2008. The album has since attained a more notable cult classic status.
Jean-Claude Vannier performed an enormous live show "L'enfant Assassin des Mouches & Melody Nelson" at London's Barbican on 21 October 2006 with guest vocalists Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy, Brigitte Fontaine, The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey and lead singer from Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys.
Publicity for the Barbican concert revealed that the musicians used for the album were Dougie Wright, Big Jim Sullivan, Herbie Flowers and Vic Flick who all joined Vannier for the concert. BBC Concert Orchestra, Crouch End Festival Chorus, a children’s string quintet were part of the show
On 22 and 23 October 2008 this show - conceived, arranged and orchestrated by Jean-Claude Vannier - was performed at the Cité de la Musique with guest vocalists :Mathieu Amalric, B at the Cité de la Musique with guest vocalists Alain Chamfort, Mathieu Amalric, Brigitte Fontaine, Brian Molko (Placebo), Martina Topley Bird, Daniel Darc, Clotilde Hesme, Seaming To.
The Lamoureux Orchestra, the Yound Choir of Paris, and the children’s string quintet were part of the show. The rhythm section was : bass : Herbie Flowers - guitars: Claude Engel and Thomas Coeuriot - drums: Pierre Alain Dahan - keyboards : Gérard Bikialo, and a sound effects man : Michel Musseau.
Jean Claude has also performed in other artistic fields such as: water colour paintings exhibited (Windsor and Newton Award 1984) at the Autumn Salon, journalism (writer for Nouvelles Littéraires, Glamour and the Journal Littéraire), the radio (comic gardening and cooking shows for France Culture) and directed a video for Maruschka Detmers.
In 1990 he also published his first collection of short stories "Le club des inconsolables” (The Club of the Inconsolable)" (Published by Fixot)
- 1972 : L'Enfant assassin des mouches (Insolitudes)
- 1974 : L'orchestre de Jean-Claude Vannier interprète les musiques de Georges Brassens
- 1975 : Jean-Claude Vannier
- 1976 : Des coups de poing dans la gueule
- 1980 : Pauvre muezzin
- 1981 : Jean-Claude Vannier
- 1985 : Public chéri je t'aime
- 1990 : Pleurez pas les filles
- 2005 : En public & Fait à la maison (2 CD)
- 1969 : Qu'est-ce qui fait courir les crocodiles ? by Jacques Poitrenaud
- 1969 : Paris n'existe pas by Robert Benayoun
- 1973 : Projection privée by François Leterrier
- 1974 : Les Guichets du Louvre by Michel Mitrani
- 1977 : La Nuit, tous les chats sont gris by Gérard Zingg
- 1985 : L'amour propre ne le reste jamais longtemps by Martin Veyron, compositeur et acteur (le pianiste)
- 1988 : Ada dans la jungle by Gérard Zingg
- 1989 : Comédie d'été by Daniel Vigne
- 1989 : Bienvenue à bord by Jean-Louis Leconte
- 1993 : Je m'appelle Victor by Guy Jacques
- 1995 : La Poudre aux yeux by Maurice Dugowson
- 2001 : La Tour Montparnasse infernale by Charles Nemes
- 2002 : Sauvage innocence by Philippe Garrel
- 2003 : Les Amants réguliers by Philippe Garrel
- 2004 : Aux Abois by Philippe Collin
- 2008 : Leur morale... et la nôtre by Florence Quentin
- 2015 : Microbe & Gasoline by Michel Gondry
- 1994 : Personne ne m'aime, by René Dubois
- 1994 : Que le jour aille au diable, by Paul Vermus
- 1995 : La Belle by Fontenay, by Paule Zajderman
- 1998 : La Clé des champs, (6 episodes) by Charles Nemes
- 1998 : Les coquelicots sont, by Richard Bohringer
- 1999 : Dessine-moi un jouet, Hervé Baslé
- 2000 : Sa mère la pute, by Brigitte Roüan
- 2001 : Le Baptême du boiteux, by Philippe Venault
- 2002 : Le Champ Dolent, le roman by la Terre, d’Hervé Baslé