Jean Guillou was born on 18 April 1930 in Angers. He developed a strong affinity to the organ at an early age. Guillou began his organ studies at the Paris Conservatoire with Marcel Dupré in 1945 and additionally took courses in compositional analysis with Olivier Messiaen and harmony with Maurice Duruflé. In 1955, he was appointed as Professor at the Istituto de Musica Sacra in Lisbon. In 1958, Guillou took up residence in Berlin before returning to France on his appointment as titular organist in the principal church of St Eustache in Paris.
He has composed over 90 works - for organ, chamber and orchestral music - as well as numerous transcriptions for organ, mainly published by Schott-Music.