Elton John never did go breaking her heart, but in the years after her 1976 duet with him, Kiki Dee found plenty of other things that would. Her pop career faltered. Her romance with John's guitarist Davey Johnstone collapsed. And in 1991 she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. "It's amazing how something like that heightens your sense of living," says Dee, now 49. "If something might be taken away from you, you appreciate it much more."

After surgery and radiation treatments, Dee seems to have beaten the disease—along with the fears that had haunted her since "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" made her a star. "I enjoyed the success, but I didn't feel secure," she says. "It was built on one song." By 1981 that song was a memory, and Dee moved on to musical theater, winning a nomination for an Olivier drama award for her performance in Blood Brothers in London. When her old friend Elton invited her to sing with him on his 1993 album Duets, however, the recording bug bit once more. "That kind of wet my toes again," she says. In 1995 she released Almost Naked, her first album in nine years, to critical acclaim, and she's currently recording another. "She has always had a great voice," says her guitarist Carmelo Luggeri, "but she is going further with it now." She has also found peace in her personal life. "I used to think, 'How am I going to get married?' Now I'm okay about it," says Dee, who lives in London. "Friends are my big passion." Elton is among them. Though they see each other only sporadically, have this mutual respect," says Dee's manager Steve Brown. "He always liked her musicianship." She has become pretty comfortable with it herself. "This is me on my own terms," she says.