Rushen was born in Los Angeles, California on September 30, 1954, the eldest of two daughters born to her father and the former Ruth Harris. She demonstrated her musical potential at a young age; she was regarded as a child prodigy. In her teens, she won the prestigious 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival. She earned her degree in music from the University of Southern California. As a mature woman, she became a jazz master and top musical director.
Due to her musical talents, Rushen has made many ground-breaking achievements. She became the first woman to serve as head composer/musical director for the Grammy Awards and the Emmy Awards, the first woman to serve as musical director for the NAACP Image Awards broadcast, an honor she held for twelve consecutive years. Rushen has been the only woman to be a musical director/composer for the People's Choice Awards, HBO's Comic Relief and the only woman musical director/conductor/arranger for a late-night television talk show, The Midnight Hour which aired on CBS.
In addition, Rushen was named musical director/composer for Newsweek's first American Achievement Awards, broadcast on CBS from the Kennedy Center and she served as the musical director for Janet Jackson's World Tour, "janet."
In 2008, Rushen accepted a professorship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, in Boston. The course is Patrice Rushen: The Value of Music Education.
She also continues to play keyboard and has played in the tour bands of Lee Ritenour and Wayne Shorter in recent years.  Solo career
Rushen has also achieved great success as a singer. A classically trained pianist, Rushen has spent great deal of time channeling her skills towards making great music. Winning a competition at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival put Patrice into the spotlight. The attention garnered from this earned her a contract with Prestige Records in 1973.
After recording three albums and becoming an in-demand session player, including with artists such as Jean-Luc Ponty, Rushen signed with Elektra Records in 1978. Forging an engaging jazz/R&B/funk fusion, this fresh mixture of styles gave her great success with a string of Top Ten R&B hits, including "Haven't You Heard," "Forget Me Nots," "Feels So Real," "Watch Out," "You Remind Me," and "Never Gonna Give You Up" from her first five albums (Patrice, Pizzazz, Posh, Straight From the Heart, and Now). Rushen also performed her single I Need Your Love on the hit show Soul Train in 1981. She also penned the opening theme for The Steve Harvey Show. Her mentor and friend is Quincy Jones. Rushen also plays multiple instruments including flute, piano, percussion, and clarinet. ASCAP Songwriter's Award, 1988; USC Black Student Assembly, Legacy of Excellence Award, 1992; Crystal Award, American Women in Film, 1994; AS CAP Award, Most Performed Song in Motion Pictures for 1997 for "Men in Black," 1998.