Michel Petrucciani came from an Italo-French family with a musical background. His father Tony played guitar and his brother Louis played bass. Michel was born with osteogenesis imperfecta which is a genetic disease that causes brittle bones and in his case short stature. It is also often linked to pulmonary ailments. In his early career his father and brother occasionally carried him, literally, because he could not walk far on his own unaided. In certain respects though he considered it an advantage as it got rid of distractions, like sports, that other boys tended to become involved in.
At an early age he became an enthusiast of Duke Ellington and wished to become a pianist like him. Although he trained for years as a classical pianist, jazz remained his main interest. He gave his first professional concert at 13. At this point in his life he was still quite fragile and had to be carried to and from the piano. His size meant that he required aids to reach the piano's pedals, but his hands were average in length. This had its advantages however, at the start of his career Petrucciani's manager would often smuggle him into hotel rooms in a suitcase in a bid to save money. By the age of 18 he was part of a successful trio. He moved to the US in 1982, where he successfully encouraged Charles Lloyd to resume playing actively and in 1986 he recorded a live album with Wayne Shorter and Jim Hall. He also played with diverse figures in the US jazz scene including Dizzy Gillespie.
In 1994 he was granted a Légion d'honneur in Paris.
On the personal side he had three significant relationships. His first marriage to Italian pianist Gilda Buttà ended in divorce. He also fathered two children, one being a son named Alexandre. One of these children inherited his condition. He also had a stepson named Rachid Roperch.
Michel Petrucciani died just after his 36th birthday from a pulmonary infection. He was interred in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.