Herbert Kretzmer was born in South Africa where he began a career in journalism writing the commentary for a weekly cinema newsreel. He came to live in London in 1954, and has since pursued twin careers as a newspaperman and songwriter. He joined the London Daily Express in 1960 and later became its senior drama critic, a post he held for 18 years, covering about 2500 first nights. From 1979-87 he wrote television criticism for the Daily Mail, winning, in this capacity, two national press awards.
As a lyric writer he wrote weekly songs for That Was The Week That Was, the British Broadcasting Corporation's groundbreaking satire programme, which became one of the most significant programmes in the history of British broadcasting. In this capacity, Kretzmer wrote the racial satire Song of Nostalgia for an American State, and the now iconic tribute to John F. Kennedy In the Summer of His Years, performed by Millicent Martin hours after Kennedy’s assassination. He won the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for the Peter Sellers - Sophia Loren comedy song Goodness Gracious Me. Other award-winning songs include two written with, and for, Charles Aznavour: Yesterday When I Was Young and the chart-topping She. He wrote the book and lyrics for the West End musical Our Man Crichton, and the lyrics for The Four Musketeers, which ran for over a year at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
He also supplied lyrics for the Anthony Newley musical film, Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?
Herbert Kretzmer is probably best known for his greatly expanded English language version of the Boubil-Schonberg musical Les Miserables. Kretzmer’s now iconic lyrics formed the official version of the show, and as such, have been translated into over 22 languages for performances around the world during the last 28 years and counting. He was one of the four credited screen writers as well as the sole credited lyricist for Universal's recently released film of Les Miserables. He wrote the English lyrics for the stage musical Marguerite written with Michel LeGrand, Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg and also worked with Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (ABBA) as lyricist for Kristina which met with critical success in concert performances in 2009 and 2010 at Carnegie Hall, and The Royal Albert Hall, London.
Herbert Kretzmer has been honored by the French government, being appointed Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. In 2011 he was appointed Officer of the Order of British Empire (OBE).