Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met in 1967 at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. They began writing music together and moved to Brooklyn, NY. Gary Katz, an associate of their producer, invited them to join ABC Record's staff. Steely Dan formed in 1972, and their debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill, featured popular hits.
Steely Dan's 1977 album Aja, featuring nearly 40 musicians, was their greatest work. It fused pop, rock, and jazz, influencing yacht rock. Initially criticized for its departure from commercially palatable music, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and included in the U.S. National Recording Registry.
The name Steely Dan originated from William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, a psychotropic fever dream novel featuring a character wearing a steam-powered dildo in a explicit sex scene. Becker and Fagen's fans may have found it amusing when they used the name for a sex toy.