Sarstedt was born in Delhi, India, where his parents were civil servants in the British administration. He attended Victoria Boys' School in Kurseong, in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. His family returned toEngland in 1954. He is the younger brother of the 1960s pop star Eden Kane, for whom he briefly played bass, and the elder brother of pop singer Clive Sarstedt.
He is best known for his 1969, UK number one hit, "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?", a portrait of a poor-born girl who becomes a member of the European jet-set. The song topped the chart in 14 countries. The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award (together with David Bowie's "Space Oddity"). Other Sarstedt songs include "Beirut", "Take Off Your Clothes", "I Am a Cathedral" and "Frozen Orange Juice" (UK #10 in 1969).
In the 1980s and 1990s, Sarstedt frequently toured the UK as part of the "Solid Silver '60s" package tours. "Where Do You Go To" was later used in the 2007 Wes Anderson films Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited, which sparked new interest in his music. In the '90s and 2000s, he has continued to release new albums and tour. In 1997 he released England's Lane, and in 2002 an album of brand new material called On Song. In 2012, a compilation of songs called Highlights — the Demos was released.  Sarstedt's latest album, released Spring 2013 is entitled "Restless Heart" produced by Ray Singer, and the single and accompanying video clip "Valentine" released on Singer Records and distributed by Proper/Finetunes.