The J.B.'s was the name of James Brown's band from 1970 through the early 1980s; they were led by trombonist Fred Wesley. In addition to backing Brown on stage and on record during this era, the J.B.'s also recorded albums and singles on their own in the early 1970s. Credited to "Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s", this song was their biggest hit selling over a one million copies.
The song was basically a jam session with a lead vocal by James Brown. Fred Wesley recalled to Uncut in 2017:
"'Doing it to Death', had (drummer) Jabo's famous shuffle, and Fred Thomas's famous bassline, the same thing over and over. The rest of it was just whatever James called out, whenever he called it out, and we would do it. He'd say, 'Let Fred blow, so I'd blow an impromptu solo right there. Then he said, 'We're going to go to D,' so the whole band went to D. James was leading the way we were following. The band was real tight by that time we could do stuff like that. From D we went back up to F. It was a total jam."
The song's title doesn't appear anywhere in the lyrics. "Doing it to Death" came from a figure of speech that James Brown heard Fred Wesley use.
"Doing It to Death Parts 1 & 2," a 10-minute, two-part version of the song was included on a J.B.'s album of the same name. The complete nearly 13-minute-long original recording of the tune was first issued on the 1995 J.B.'s compilation Funky Good Time: The Anthology.