Cretu was born to a Romanian father and a mother of Austrian ancestry. His uncle, Ion Voicu, a famous Romanian violinist and the director of the Bucharest Philharmonic, told Michael's parents that he had talent in music and as such, he studied classical music at Liceul Nr. 2 in Bucharest in 1965 and in Paris, France, in 1968. He later attended the Academy of Music in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1975 to 1978, attaining a degree in music. Cretu was taken on as a keyboard player and producer for Frank Farian, the German mastermind behind successful acts of the 1970s and 1980s such as Boney M and Milli Vanilli.
In the 1980s, Cretu took over production for the pop quartet Hubert Kah and started writing songs with the band leader Hubert Kemmler, achieving a number of hits. Among his other work, Cretu was also one of the producers of Mike Oldfield's 1987 album "Islands", and the producer of Peter Schilling's 1989 album "The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)". In 1998, Cretu teamed up with Jens Gad (they previously worked together on "Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!") and created the album "The Energy of Sound" under the name Trance Atlantic Airwaves. Cretu and Gad also worked with Jamaican singer Andru Donalds, achieving some success in Europe with a cover version of the song "All Out of Love" (1999).
Cretu met his future wife, Sandra Lauer, when he was playing keyboards on the band Arabesque’s live touring show. In collaboration with several Hubert Kah band members, he co-wrote and produced several successful albums and singles for her, beginning with the song "Maria Magdalena" which topped the charts in 21 countries. The band was simply called Sandra, although Sandra's full name is now often used for filing and identification purposes. Cretu married her on 7 January 1988. They have twins named Nikita and Sebastian, who were born in July 1995. Michael and Sandra divorced in November 2007, citing "personal and professional differences". Another band of Cretu's was called Moti Special ("Cold Days, Hot Nights"), which Cretu produced and performed with in the mid-1980s. He owned the first A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza.
Sandra - Loreen
He has worked with many producers, musicians, and artists in his long career. These include Sandra Cretu, Frank Farian, Boney M, Goombay Dance Band, Peter Cornelius, Manfred "Tissy" Thiers and Mike Oldfield in his pre-Enigma days, and Jens Gad, Frank Peterson, David Fairstein, ATB, Jam & Spoon, Peter Ries, Ruth-Ann Boyle and Andru Donalds during the course of the project.
After Cretu's marriage to Sandra in 1988, he had an idea, following suggestions made by David Fairstein, for a musical new-age dance project under the name, presented by Fairstein, of Enigma. Cretu worked with Frank Peterson and David Fairstein to create their ground-breaking first single "Sadeness," which became a surprise hit. MCMXC a.D., the album, which was released in 1990, was hugely successful. It is believed to have sold about 20 million copies worldwide. One of the aims of Enigma was to present music that has never been heard before and is not being produced anywhere, which also forced Cretu to continually move in new musical directions and to stay ahead of imitators.
Enigma - Sadeness
MCMXC a.D. stayed on the charts for 282 weeks on the Billboard charts and dropped off two years after its second album, "The Cross of Changes", was released in 1993. Prior to this, Frank Peterson had some disagreements with Cretu and he left the project in 1991. Cretu changed Enigma's direction from Gregorian chants to tribal chants for its second album, and this led to "Return to Innocence", which became a worldwide hit. Cretu was approached by Paramount Pictures to write the soundtrack of the movie Sliver and he came up with another 1993 single, "Carly's Song", the title of the track based on the character of the leading actress in the movie.
Enigma - Return to Innocence
In 1996, Enigma's third album, "Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!" was released. Stylistically, it sounded like a combination of the first and second albums, but it failed to achieve the same level of success. For the fourth album, Cretu steered the project in another direction by using samples of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" for the album "The Screen Behind the Mirror". Andru Donalds and Ruth-Ann Boyle first appeared on this release. Although Jens Gad had been working with Cretu on the earlier albums, this was the first time that he had been given actual credits.
Enigma - Mea Culpa
Deciding that the first chapter for Enigma was closed, Cretu released two sets of compilation albums: "Love Sensuality Devotion: The Greatest Hits" and "Love Sensuality Devotion: The Remix Collection". By then Cretu was undecided if he should continue with the project, but eventually he came up with "Voyageur" in 2003. Familiar sounds of the Shakuhachi flute, tribal, or Gregorian chants were replaced with more pop-oriented tunes and beats. In March 2006, a new single called "Hello & Welcome" was released in anticipation of another album. "A Posteriori" was the sixth Enigma studio album. It was released 22 September 2006. "Seven Lives Many Faces" became the seventh Enigma studio album. It was released 19 September 2008.
In 2001, Crocodile-Music, Cretu`s management stated that a total of 100 million Cretu-produced records had been sold. By the year 2007, Michael Cretu`s Enigma project had sold over 40 million studio albums.