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36 Irish and Scottish Singers and Bands Who Made It Big in America

FlourishAnyway believes there is a playlist for just about any situation and is on a mission to unite and entertain the world through song.

This article will take a look at more than 30 Irish and Scottish singers and bands who made it big in the U.S.

This article will take a look at more than 30 Irish and Scottish singers and bands who made it big in the U.S.

Scottish and Irish Singers and Bands That Made It Big in America

When you think of Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, do you hear the distant sound of bagpipes or Celtic music? Does your mind conjure images of medieval castles, the Loch Ness monster, and the Blarney Stone? Maybe you imagine the Highland games and tartan-clad men in kilts. Or perhaps you crave fish and chips, Guinness, whisky, or potatoes. (Let's be real: Nobody craves haggis.)

While these countries are known for many things, some of their finest attributes are the popular musicians that they have famously exported to America. Some of the biggest stars on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart have been from Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Let's take a look at which singers and bands have scored big in the United States.

1. U2 (Ireland)

U2 has become almost as synonymous with Ireland as Celtic music, leprechauns, and shamrocks. Rolling Stone designated the famous rock band as one of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," and in 2005 the Irish group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

However, in 1976, when Bono and his bandmates first formed U2 in Dublin, they were mere teenagers. The Irish rockers have reinvented themselves over the years, shifting their sound and finding not only worldwide commercial success but also nabbing a string of Grammy Awards and other key accolades.

Named after a spy plane, U2 has become known for its sociopolitical messages, including poverty, disease, and social justice. Fans identify frontman Bono (real name Paul David Hewson) with a trademark look, colored or dark sunglasses. However, he wears them not because of how hip he is but rather because he suffers from glaucoma.

Among U2's Top 40 hits on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 charts are:

  • "With or Without You" (1987)
  • "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (1987)
  • "Desire" (1988)
  • "Angel of Harlem" (1988)
  • "Mysterious Ways" (1991)
  • "One" (1992)"
  • "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (1992)
  • "Staring at the Sun" (1995)
  • "Discothèque" (1997)
  • "Beautiful Day" (2000) and
  • "Vertigo" (2004).

2. Calvin Harris (Scotland)

Scotland can proudly claim prominent DJ Calvin Harris as its native son. Harris is a popular vocalist, songwriter, and music producer who has released a series of Top 40 tunes on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Additionally, the Scottish musician has collaborated on popular singles with a variety of big-name artists: Rihanna, Ellie Goulding, Ne-Yo, Gwen Stefani, Alesso, Ariana Grande, Pharrell Grande, Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg, and Florence Welch. Talk about name dropping!

Some of the Scottish DJ's mainstream releases to make the Top 40 Billboard charts include:

  • "Feel So Close" (2011)
  • "We Found Love" (2011)
  • "Let's Go" (2012)
  • "Sweet Nothing" (2012)
  • "I Need Your Love" (2013)
  • "Summer" (2014)
  • "Blame" (2014)
  • "Outside" (2014)
  • "How Deep Is Your Love" (2015)
  • "This Is What You Came For" (2016)
  • "My Way" (2016)
  • "Slide" (2017)
  • "Feels" (2017) and
  • "One Kiss" (2018).

3. Celtic Woman (Ireland)

This five-woman Irish lineup performs traditional Celtic tunes, modern songs, and Christmas tunes. They dovetailed off the international popularity of the wildly traditional Irish music and dance performance theatre of Riverdance. Although Celtic Woman has not realized success on the mainstream pop charts, their contribution to music has not gone unnoticed. The all-female group is a household name in America and has been named Billboard World Album Artist of the Year six times.

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4. Simple Minds (Scotland)

If you grew up in the 1980s like I did, then you likely recall the Scottish rock band Simple Minds for their 1985 new wave ditty, "Don't You (Forget About Me)." It was the theme song for the cult movie classic, The Breakfast Club, about five high schoolers who spend a Saturday together in detention. Originally, Simple Minds didn't want to record the single because they didn't write it, plus the song style deviated too much from their usual vibe. It had already been turned down by several other prominent artists.

In addition to "Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds released several other singles that achieved the Top 40 of the Billboard's Hot 100 chart:

  • "Alive and Kicking" (1985)
  • "Sanctify Yourself" (1986) and
  • "All the Things She Said" (1986).

5. Van Morrison (Northern Ireland)

Known as "Van the Man" to his followers, this Northern Irish singer-songwriter is admired for his R&B and soul-tinged mainstream hits. Van Morrison first made his mark on mainstream music with the 1967 rock hit, "Brown Eyed Girl," a song originally intended to be titled, "Brown-Skinned Girl." This career-defining number with an island vibe continues to be one of the most downloaded and played 1960s tunes.

Morrison was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Aside from his signature song, the Irishman's Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 include:

  • "Come Running" (1970)
  • "Domino" (1970)
  • "Blue Money" (1971) and
  • "Wild Night" (1971).

Additionally, Van the Man wrote and originally recorded the song that Rod Stewart is often associated with, "Have I Told You Lately." Morrison won a Grammy for it in 1989.

6. Hozier (Ireland)

Andrew John Hozier-Byrne is mononymously known as Hozier. In 2013, after a bad romantic breakup, the Irish singer-songwriter penned a soulful song in his parents' attic at 2 a.m. It springboarded him to global fame when his video went viral on Reddit.

Hozier's song, "Take Me to Church," describes his love affair in religious terms and provides critical social commentary on established religion. The narrator believes that loving sex with his irreverent girlfriend brings him closer to God than any traditional church can: "There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin."

The alternative rock song crossed over to the mainstream pop charts as well as the dance and adult contemporary charts. Hauntingly beautiful, it became a worldwide sensation. The song's video was inspired by the hate crimes against gay men in Russia. "Take Me to Church" made the 2015 year-end Top 40 list as well as the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the decade.

The Irishman's hits have included Top 40 singles on both the rock and mainstream charts:

  • "Take Me to Church" (2013)
  • "Angel Of Small Death & The Codeine Scene" (2014)
  • "Like Real People Do" (2014)
  • "Arsonist's Lullaby" (2014)
  • "NFWMB" (2018)
  • "Shrike" (2018)
  • "To Noise Making (Sing)" (2018) and
  • "The Bones" (2019).

Fun fact: Hozier's 2019 song with country star Maren Morris, "The Bones," kept him from being a one-hit wonder. All of his other hits saw success on the rock charts but didn't crack the mainstream pop charts. Many articles on the internet mistakenly list this Irishman as a one-hit wonder, but now you know better!

7. Niall Horan (Ireland)

Before Niall Horan launched his solo career, he was the Irish part of the English-Irish boy band One Direction, assembled in 2010 (and listed separately in the table below). As a preteen, Horan taught himself to play the guitar with the help of YouTube. When Horan auditioned as a lone performer on the British music competition show, The X Factor, he was eliminated from the individual rounds. Lucky for us all, Simon Cowell put the Irish musician together with several other rejected soloists—Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, and Harry Styles—to form a "manufactured" group.

Horan churned out hits with mega-group One Direction and toured the world until the band went on permanent hiatus in 2016. Then he struck out on his own to record mainstream pop 40 songs such as "This Town" (2016) and "Slow Hands" (2017).

The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune. - Irish saying

The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune. - Irish saying

8. Sheena Easton (Scotland)

Grammy Award-winning Scot Sheena Easton was first inspired to pursue a career as a singer when she saw the Barbra Streisand movie, The Way We Were. Easton later the prominent Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama on scholarship, and in a career-propelling move appeared in a documentary film that sought to document a virtually unknown musician's attempts to find fame.

When a respected talent scout told the Scottish musician that she had little chance of success, Easton proved them wrong. Within less than a year she had a record contract in America and was on her way.

At the pinnacle of Easton's success in the 1980s, the Scottish songstress had under her belt a series of hits on the mainstream pop chart, in addition to others on the dance, R&B, country adult contemporary, international and Latin charts. Talk about wide-ranging interests! Easton contributed the James Bond theme and collaborated with artists ranging from Prince to Kenny Rogers.

Easton's hits on the mainstream Billboard Top 40 include these memorable songs:

  • "Modern Girl" (1980)
  • "9 to 5 (Morning Train)" (1980)
  • "When He Shines" (1981)
  • "For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • "You Could Have Been with Me" (1981)
  • "We've Got Tonight" (1983)
  • "Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)" (1983)
  • "Almost Over You" (1983)
  • "Strut" (1984)
  • Sugar Walls" (1984)
  • "The Lover in Me" (1988) and
  • "What Comes Naturally" (1991).

9. Nazareth (Scotland)

Love hurts
Love scars
Love wounds and marks
Any heart not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
Love hurts
Oooh ... love hurts. ...

Now this is a breakup song that leaves nothing unsaid! Scottish hard rock band Nazareth is a one-hit wonder in the US because the group only eeked out one hit on the Top 40 list of the Billboard Hot 100. However, anyone who has felt like they've been stabbed in the heart by a lover and left to bleed out will feel like "Love Hurts" (1975) was written exclusively for them.

Nazareth was formed in 1961 from members of a group called The Shadettes. The new group took its name from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, a location cited in the lyrics of the song, "The Weight" (1968) by The Band.

Gun N’ Roses lead vocalist Axl Rose is such a Nazareth fan that he asked the Scottish hard rockers to play "Love Hurts" at his wedding, but unfortunately, Nazareth declined. A version of the band is still going strong today.

10. Lewis Capaldi (Scotland)

Imagine it's your first major hit and you take home accolades like the Brit Song of the Year, the Scottish Music Awards' Best Breakthrough Artist, and a Grammy nomination. That's where Scottish singer-songwriter finds himself. "Someone You Loved" (2018) was a chart-topper in the US and became a worldwide smash hit. Obviously, the pressure is on for Capaldi to keep creating incredibly successful mainstream Billboard Top 40 hits.

Capaldi's road to success began when he learned to play drums and guitar as a toddler, sang in pubs by the time he was a 9 year-old and was discovered thanks to a self-recorded upload of his vocals to SoundCloud. Along the way, Capaldi has performed with singers including Kygo, Ellie Goulding, Niall Horan, and Sam Smith. Expect more good things from the Scottish singer. No pressure, Lewis.

"If there were only three Irishmen in the world you'd find two of them in a corner talking about the other." - Argentinean writer María Brandán Aráoz

"If there were only three Irishmen in the world you'd find two of them in a corner talking about the other." - Argentinean writer María Brandán Aráoz

11. The Corrs (Ireland)

An Irish quartet of siblings, The Corrs gained international exposure when they performed at the1994 FIFA World Cup in Boston and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. They subsequently toured with Celine Dion as supporting vocalists.

Their distinctively Irish-flavored pop/rock and folk/rock sound produced modest success overseas. Unfortunately, the only Top 40 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart was their 2000 song, "Breathless," effectively making the group a one-hit wonder. Even so, The Corrs did enjoy some success on the American adult contemporary charts with these hits before they went on an extended hiatus:

  • "Someone You Loved" (2001)
  • "Would You Be Happier?" (2001)
  • "Summer Sunshine" (2004) and
  • "When the Stars Go Blue" (2007).

12. Thin Lizzy (Ireland)

Thin Lizzy's only song to crack the mainstream Billboard Top 40 was the rockin' 1976 tune, "The Boys Are Back in Town." It's hard to imagine that this Irish hard rock band, so popular abroad, was technically a one-hit wonder in the United States. At least their one hit was a really good one!

Founding member and leader of the group Phil Lynott was particularly noteworthy in that he was the first black Irishman to achieve commercial success in the rock music industry. Lynott was a songwriter and Thin Lizzy's lead vocalist. Even after his drug-related death in 1986, a version of the band still performs today. They record new material under the name Black Star Riders.

13. The Script (Ireland)

Two best friends since age 12—guitarist Mark Sheehan and vocalist Danny O'Donoghue—joined forces to form Irish rock band, The Script. Early in their careers, these Irishmen were part of a boy band called Mytown that split in 2001. Their production and songwriting work took them to North America where they supported artists like Britney Spears, TLC, and Boyz II Men. While there, the two Irishmen combined forces with fellow countryman and drummer Glen Power, thus forming The Script.

As a newly established rock band, The Script opened for Paul McCartney and U2. The Script's 2008 hit, "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" brought them international acclaim. In the United States, the song was an adult alternative hit and was often featured in the CBS television show, The Ghost Whisperer.

The band's Top 40 hits on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart include the following:

  • "Breakeven" (2008)
  • "For the First Time" (2010)
  • "Nothing" (2010) and
  • "Hall of Fame" (2012).

14. Sinéad O'Connor (Ireland)

Famous for being bald-headed and oddly behaved, Sinéad O'Connor reimagined a little known song by Prince called "Nothing Compares 2 U" (1990). The pop hit became a chart-topping sensation across the globe. If you've ever felt emotionally stripped bare then had the remains of your raw heart stomped upon by a lover, then this pop ballad aptly describes your vulnerability.

It was O'Connor's only Top 40 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, and it sure was a doozy. The Irish singer scored a few hits on the alternative chart but became known as a one-hit wonder for "Nothing Compares 2 U." But honestly, how could you follow up a song like that?

As talented as she is, Sinéad O'Connor has always carried unusual life baggage. The Irish singer-songwriter gained notoriety when she ripped up a photo of the Pope on live television while appearing as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live. A Roman Catholic, O'Connor was protesting childhood sexual abuse in the church. In another controversy, she refused to perform in concert in 1990 if the American national anthem was performed. Then, in 1991 O'Connor became the only artist to ever refuse a Grammy Award (ostensibly because it promotes materialistic values).

The Irish singer became an ordained priest in a breakaway church and subsequently converted to Islam, and has changed her name multiple times. O'Connor reports that she is a survivor of childhood abuse and has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder.

15. Susan Boyle (Scotland)

You know what they say about judging a book by its cover. When Susan Boyle appeared on Britain's Got Talent in 2009, she left both her audience and the judges flabbergasted. The Scottish singer convincingly belted out "I Dreamed a Dream," a song from the musical Les Misérables. Boyle provided unconventional packaging for an angel's vocals, and her performance rocketed her to fame even though she did not win the overall competition. She lives with a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome and has thus found her celebrity to be a mixed blessing.

Boyle's studio albums have been significant sellers in the United States as well as other countries. She has had no mainstream Top 40 singles, but the Scottish singer has become synonymous with overnight success and realizing a dream.

"Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead." - Scottish saying

"Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead." - Scottish saying

Even More Irish and Scottish Singers and Bands That Made It Big in America

ArtistExample(s) of HitsGenre(s)

16. Snow Patrol (Northern Ireland & Scotland)

Chasing Cars (2006)

alternative rock

17. Big Country (Scotland)

In a Big Country (1983), Look Away (1986), King of Emotion (1988), The One I Love (1993)

alternative rock, new wave

18. Enya (Ireland)

Orinoco Flow (1988), Only Time (2000), I Don't Wanna Know (2004)

pop, new age

19. Chvrches (Scotland)

The Mother We Share (2012), Leave a Trace (2015), Never Ending Circles (2015), Bury It (2016), Get Out (2018), My Enemy (2018)


20. The Cranberries (Ireland)

Dreams (1993), Linger (1993), Zombie (1994), Ode to My Family (1994), Ridiculous Thoughts (1995), Salvation (1996)

alternative rock

21. The Waterboys (Scotland & Ireland)

Fisherman's Blues (1988), World Party (1989), A Life of Sundays (1990), The Return of Pan (1993)

alternative rock, folk

22. The Proclaimers (Scotland)

I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (1993)

alternative rock

23. Bay City Rollers (Scotland)

Saturday Night (1976), Money Honey (1976), Rock and Roll Love Letter (1976), I Only Want to Be with You (1976), You Made Me Believe in Magic (1977)


24. The Soup Dragons (Scotland)

I'm Free (1990), Divine Thing (1992), Pleasure (1992)

alternative rock

25. The Dubliners (Ireland)

Seven Drunken Nights (1967) Whiskey in a Jar (1968)

Irish folk

26. Annie Lennox (Scotland)

Put a Little Love in Your Heart (1988), Walking on Broken Glass (1992), No More 'I Love You's (1995)


27. Average White Band (Scotland)

Pick Up the Pieces (1974), Cut the Cake (1975), School Boy Crush (1975), Queen of My Soul (1976), Get It Up (1977)

funk, R&B

28. Flogging Molly (Ireland)

Requiem for a Dying Song (2008), Float (2008), Don't Shut 'Em Down (2011)

folk punk, Celtic punk

29. Chris de Burgh (Ireland)

Don't Pay the Ferryman (1982), The Lady in Red (1986)

soft rock

30. One Direction (Ireland)

What Makes You Beautiful (2010), Best Song Ever (2013), Story of My Life (2013), Drag Me Down (2015), Perfect (2015)


31. The Pogues (Ireland)

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (1989), Sunny Side of the Street (1991), Tuesday Morning (1993)


32. Emeli Sandé (Scotland)

Next to Me (2012), Beneath Your Beautiful (2012)


33. Stealers Wheel (Scotland)

Stuck in the Middle with You (1973)

pop rock

34. Gerry Rafferty (Scotland)

Baker Street (1978), Right Down the Line (1978), Home and Dry (1978), Days Gone Down (1979),Get It Right Next Time (1979)


35. Donovan (Scotland)

Sunshine Superman (1966), Mellow Yellow (1966), Wear Your Love Like Heaven (1967), Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968)

folk, psychadelic rock, pop

36. KT Tunstall (Scotland)

Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (2005), Suddenly I See (2005)

alternative rock, folk

© 2020 FlourishAnyway


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 27, 2020:

Rajan - I appreciate your kind support. Have a wonderful week ahead.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 25, 2020:

My knowledge about these Irish and Scottish bands and singers was zero before reading this article. Thanks for adding to my knowledge.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 09, 2020:

Izza - She's of American nationality but is of Irish and Scottish descent. Don't you love that one of her middle names is "Pirate"? Who does that?

Izza on July 09, 2020:

Billie eilish is also irish

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 07, 2020:

Eiddy - My husband enjoys her music, too. Thanks for tuning in!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 07, 2020:

Dora - She has definitely struggled with a lot of inner demons but has so much talent. I'm glad you enjoyed this list!

Eiddwen from Wales on March 07, 2020:

I really enjoyed this one and so much talent have been borne in these countries. One of my favourites has to be Enya however followed closely by so many others who you mentioned. Great work.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 06, 2020:

thanks for introduction to these Irish and Scottish groups. This is entertaining, educational and motivational. Sinéad O'Connor is impressive.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2020:

MG - Thanks you for the kind kudos. Have a wonderful weekend!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 06, 2020:

Dear Flourish, I must complement you for this compilation. A great intro to the Irish bands in the US

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2020:

Linda - They do have beautiful voices. Thanks so much for stopping by.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2020:

Clive - Ha! You may have something there.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2020:

Nelll - Thanks for chiming in! Glad you enjoyed this!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2020:

Heidi - Sheena Easton was surprisingly diverse and was everywhere but then like so many artists just went away. I'm trying hard not to do the British version. Just too, too many! Thanks so much for your encouragement.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2020:

Linda - Aww, I can just see my cats in Irish jail! I hope leprechauns would visit them.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 05, 2020:

I like Celtic Woman and The Corrs very much. I like Susan Boyle's voice, too. Thanks for describing the background and music of some interesting singers, Flourish.

Nell Rose from England on March 05, 2020:

I love my Irish and Scottish bands and music. I have a triple CD of Celtic Women, and Lewis Capaldi is fantastic too. But then again all of these are! Great list and wonderful music.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on March 04, 2020:

Always surprised at your song list. You should go sing and make millions

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 04, 2020:

And the world tour continues!

Lots of faves, especially 80s songstress, Sheena Easton, who was everywhere back then, even on Miami Vice!

And, of course, Thin Lizzy, but like Jailbreak better than Boys are Back.

Where to next? I'm along for the ride.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 04, 2020:

I don't know what the regs. are in Ireland, but my sister moved to Italy 20 years ago. She had 3 cats with her. They had to be placed in quarantine for a while, but eventually were all reunited and she (and the kitties) lived there for 17 years.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2020:

Pamela - Thank you for stopping by. I am happy that you found several that you enjoy.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2020:

Linda - When my family and I traveled to Northern Ireland and Ireland, if it weren't for our cats back home we may not have come back! It was that amazing. My dad traced the family lineage back to the small town where we have distant relatives and he one who was working as a craftsman at a castle we were visiting. The guy looked strikingly similar to my father! Same nose especially! It was eerie. I swear I would move there. But alas ... the cats.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2020:

Peggy - When I first saw it I wondered what it had to do with the song. Like several other artists on this list, Hozier is very into social awareness of important causes. It was very eye-opening regarding intolerance.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2020:

Bill - I'm happy to help! Hope you found some songs and artists you enjoy!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2020:

Mary - Glad you enjoyed this article! Have a wonderful week!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2020:

Devika - Thanks for your warm comment. Some of these probably came as surprises. Glad you liked this.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2020:

I remember the first time I saw Susan Boyle on TV and what a great voice! I like Van Morrison and 'Take Me to Church' is another good song. There are several good singers listed in your artiicle, Flourish.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 04, 2020:

A few of these were obvious (U2, Celtic Woman, The Corrs, Susan Boyle, O'Connor) but who knew that Van Morrison is from Northern Ireland? Not this girl. This is a fun list, great songs, and just in time for St. Patrick's Day when all of us are a little bit Irish.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 04, 2020:

Susan Boyle and the Celtic Woman are favorites of mine. I have heard some of the other songs as well like "Take Me To Church," but I had never seen that video which is horrifying. I will never think of that song in the same way again.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 04, 2020:

Shows you how little I know. I knew U2 and that was it. Thanks for filling in some gaps in my musical knowledge.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 04, 2020:

I love the stories on these singers and bands. How they've reached the top is impressive. I grew up with a few and enjoyed knowing more about them.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 04, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway a few Scottish singers that I am familiar with and enjoy listening to as well. I feel music is a great pass time for me. I like your format and information that taught me a bit more than I know and of singers who have become greater in the USA.

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